The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 23, 2014

Beaverdale man charged in fatal crash

Justin Dennis

BEAVERDALE — A Beaverdale man was arrested Tuesday on charges that he was driving under the influence when a passenger in his vehicle was killed in a crash in November.

The criminal complaint filed by police says Zeth Donald Markel, 20, of Henry Street, was negotiating a curve on Route 53 just before 3 a.m. Nov. 3 when his vehicle slid off the road and hit an embankment.

Markel’s passenger, Lyle D. Popish, 21, also of Beaverdale, was ejected from the vehicle.

Popish was pronounced dead at the scene.

Markel was transported to Memorial Medical Center.

Police said neither man was wearing a seat belt.

State police from Ebensburg said that when they interviewed Markel in the emergency room, he told them that the passenger side of his SUV “kicked out” on the curve. He overcorrected the vehicle, causing it to spin into the embankment.

Investigators said in the complaint that they detected a strong alcoholic odor on Markel’s breath during the questioning.

After Markel submitted to a blood test an hour and a half after the crash, his blood alcohol content was found to be 0.133 percent, which is 0.131 percent over the legal limit of 0.02 percent for minors.

On Jan. 13, police received a report from the sensing module onā€ˆMarkel’s 2013 Chevrolet Equinox that showed the SUV was traveling as fast as 76 mph just seconds before the accident.

The area where the accident occurred, which is near a railroad underpass in Summerhill Township, has a 45 mph speed limit, police said.

Markel was arraigned before District Judge Rick Varner on Tuesday.

He faces 12 charges, including a felony count of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, a misdemeanor count of DUI as a minor, reckless driving and careless driving that caused unintentional death.

Markel is free on $100,000 unsecured bail.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Feb. 20 before Varner.

Justin Dennis covers Summerhill Township for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at