Driver who killed teen posts his totaled car online with smiley face

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 31, 2014 - 8:12 PM

“I didn’t even know I hit” anyone, said man suspected of drinking before fatal Hwy. 252 collision.

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This Facebook photo was posted by car owner Michael J. Vanwagner

A 16-year-old Brooklyn Center boy clung to life for days before dying after a suspected drunken driver, without a valid license, fled one crash on a north-metro highway and ran into the teen’s car down the road moments later, authorities said.

Jason F. McCarthy, of Brooklyn Center, remained in North Memorial Medical Center on Wednesday after his family posted on CaringBridge over the weekend that “the injuries to Jason during the impact of the accident were too much for him to survive. Jason is currently on life support so family can get here and say goodbye.”

The State Patrol on Tuesday confirmed the death of McCarthy, who would have been a junior at Champlin Park High School, where he intended to return to the cross-country team for a third season.

The back-to-back crashes occurred midafternoon on July 22 along Hwy. 252 in Brooklyn Park, with both involving Michael J. Vanwagner, 24, of Coon Rapids, according to the State Patrol.

On the Saturday before McCarthy died, Vanwagner posted photos of what was left of his vehicle on his Facebook page and wrote, “That’s her front end after I got done with her lol.” He signed that message with a smiley face.

Under a second photo, he commented: “I’m all good slept a day in the hospital then came home and did yard work lol.”

Vanwagner acknowledged posting the images and said in an interview Wednesday, “I didn’t even know I hit somebody. I just thought I hit something.” The photos and the accompanying comments were deleted Wednesday night.

It was on Wednesday, he added, that he learned that “another kid died” as Vanwagner was heading to a friend’s home in north Minneapolis.

“Police came and arrested me [Wednesday] morning and let me out because the charges won’t be coming for months,” he said.

Vanwagner said, “I know I’m looking at spending time in prison, so I’m trying to spend as much time as I can with my 18-month-old.”

McCarthy was an honors student and played bass guitar in the high school band and with friends in a rock band called the Crak Pots, his aunt Brigid Klaysmat said.

“He loved trying everything and had a very adventurous spirit and a wonderful sense of humor,” Klaysmat said.

Vanwagner sideswiped a vehicle at Hwy. 252 and 73rd Avenue, the patrol said. He continued south and then hit McCarthy’s car from behind, leaving both cars totaled.

The state trooper who caught up with Vanwagner after the second collision reported that the “odor of alcoholic beverage was noticed,” State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow said.

Vanwagner was taken to North Memorial for his injuries, and a blood alcohol test was conducted, Grabow said. Results are pending, as are charges against Vanwagner.

State records show that Vanwagner was driving on a revoked license, according to a Department of Public Safety official. His driving record is littered with violations, including careless driving and twice driving after having his license suspended. Vanwagner said his license was revoked for driving without insurance.

Vanwagner is on probation for a felony conviction in April for terroristic threats. Along with abstaining from alcohol and illicit drugs, the conditions of his sentence include that he remain law-abiding.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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