Driver sentenced in crash that paralyzed Montreat coach; DA wants change in state law

Mark Barrett
The Citizen-Times
Britten Olinger, who stands on the far left, takes a picture with track and field athletes from Eastern Mennonite University at a meet. He coached track and field at EMU from 2011-16 before he began coaching at Montreat College in July 2016. Olinger was paralyzed from the chest down after a car accident Feb. 27 in Black Mountain.

ASHEVILLE – A Winston-Salem man will spend at least 29 months in prison after pleading guilty Monday to charges connected to a horrific February 2017 crash in downtown Black Mountain that left a Montreat College track coach paralyzed.

Kyle Donte Carney, 31, was also sentenced to pay $162,456 in restitution for medical expenses to coach Britten Olinger and a $2,500 fine.

Police said the vehicle Carney was driving was traveling 120 mph in a 20 mph zone when it struck Olinger's vehicle at the intersection of State Street and Montreat Road, setting off a chain reaction that damaged three other vehicles and the Town Hardware building.

Kyle Donte Carney

Olinger's spinal cord was severed and he has been told he will never walk again. He also suffered other serious injuries.

Carney pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, a felony, and several other charges.

Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams said the state General Assembly should fix what he described as a "gap in our criminal statues" that meant prosecutors had no way to obtain a longer prison sentence for Carney.

He said Superior Court Judge Gary Gavenus handed down the maximum sentence allowed under state law, 29 to 47 months. Carney's presumptive sentence is 40 months and the exact amount of time he serves will depend on his conduct in prison.

Carney's sentence could have been longer had he been impaired by alcohol or drugs or if someone else in the accident died, Williams said. There was no evidence that Carney was impaired, he said.

"Nothing that we can do in court will right the wrong that was done to Mr. Britten Olinger," Williams said. He said there should be a more serious charge that would apply in a case of extremely reckless or dangerous driving causing serious injury and thus allow a judge to impose more time in prison.

Coach Britten Olinger

"I call on the N.C. legislature to draft new legislation to enhance punishments for grossly reckless driving, without impairment, that results in severe, permanent injury to protect future N.C. motorists from the tragic outcome we see here," Williams said.

He said he has already contacted area state legislators to suggest a change that would apply to future cases.

Olinger had moved to Black Mountain only a few months before the wreck to be head coach of Montreat College's men's and women's track and field teams. He is now confined to a wheelchair.

To make it wheelchair accessible, volunteers made renovations to the home where he lives with his wife and two young children. Area residents have undertaken efforts to raise money to help with medical and related expenses.

Williams said he has no knowledge of whether Carney has the ability to pay the restitution ordered as part of his sentencing Monday.

Olinger returned to work at Montreat last September in a part-time role as assistant track and field coach.

Britten Olinger works to strengthen his left shoulder muscle at the Sheperd Medical Center in Atlanta. He suffered a spinal cord injury after a car crash Feb. 27 in Black Mountain and is paralyzed from his chest down. His 11-month-old daughter Kolbie comforts her dad while he does physical therapy. His mother-in-law holds Kolbie, while his wife, Sam Olinger, learns how to help Britten with exercises.

The crash occurred about 7 p.m. on a Monday. Police said Carney's 2015 Nissan Altima was traveling west on Interstate 40 on the east side of Black Mountain and hit a guardrail as he was leaving I-40 onto East State Street at Exit 65.

He followed the street, numbered U.S. 70, to the intersection that is Black Mountain's main crossroads, where his vehicle hit the 2004 Mazda sedan that Olinger was driving.

Carney was also injured in the wreck as were others, who were treated at the hospital and released.

Williams said an assistant district attorney who handled the case said Carney has said he had flown into Charlotte after an out-of-town trip, driven home to Winston-Salem to check his mail, then driven to Buncombe County to meet his husband, who was staying in a hotel in the area.

Daniel Bennett gives blood at a Montreat College blood drive March 3, 2017. The drive was held in honor of Montreat College's head track and field coach Britten Olinger. He was in a horrific accident Monday February 27, 2017 and paralyzed from the chest down.