BOISE, Idaho — Charges against a young driver who struck and killed a 7-year-old boy with his pickup truck in July have been upgraded to a felony after prosecutors say they learned the man was using his cell phone when the collision happened.
Eighteen-year-old Conner Brant of Boise was originally charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in the death of Eduard Prokopchuk of Nampa, who was riding his bicycle when he was hit. Prosecutors filed an amended complaint changing the manslaughter charge to a felony on Monday.
According to the complaint, Brant's veered off the road and hit Prokopchuk "while driving and reading and/or sending message communications on a cellular phone and/or using a cellular phone and/or driving over the fog line onto the shoulder where E.P. was riding a bicycle which caused E.P.'s death."
The complaint did not specify whether the 18-year-old was texting or using a different messaging app.
According to the Ada County Sheriff's Office, Prokopchuk was riding along Amity Road with two other boys when Brant hit him. The impact threw the 7-year-old off his bicycle and into a fence.
Brant immediately pulled over and went back to the scene of the crash, according to deputies. The critically-injured child was rushed to a local hospital, where he died from his injuries the next day.
The driver initially told deputies that he had swerved to avoid something in the road seconds before the collision. Investigators later said they had determined that Brant was looking at his radio or something else inside the cab of the pickup when he hit the child.
The original charge alleged that Brant had acted "without gross negligence," making it a misdemeanor. It's unclear when prosecutors learned that Brant had been on his phone.
Lawmakers have indicated that they may take up a statewide ban on using handheld devices while driving during the 2020 Idaho Legislative Session, although such a bill has not yet been introduced. The push for statewide legislation follows the City of Meridian's passage of an ordinance banning drivers from using handheld devices, which officers began enforcing Jan. 1.
Brant is due back in court Friday for a pretrial conference.