Nicholas Kawula

Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole announced Thursday that a 33-year-old Whitehall man was charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated causing death following a fatal accident on Dec. 14, 2019.

Nicholas Francis Kawula turned himself into 79th District Court, Cole stated Thursday, on the felony charge that a potential maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and/or a fine of between $2,500 to $10,000 fine.

Kawula was driving on southbound on U.S. 31 south of Free Soil Road when he is alleged to have crossed the center line and struck a car driven by 40-year-old Christopher Patrick Kapala of Scottville. The crash occurred at 4:26 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, in Free Soil Township.

Kapala died as the result of the injuries he suffered in the accident. Kawula also was injured in the accident, and, according to a statement from Cole in December, was transported by Life EMS to Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital with serious injuries and then transferred to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids for advanced care.

Cole stated Thursday that investigators learned Kawula attended a Christmas party in Traverse City the night before, and he allegedly consumed alcohol before driving back to his home in Whitehall. Cole stated Kawula's blood alcohol level was allegedly more than 0.08 threshold after the crash. The level was based on an analysis of a sample of his blood obtained by deputies after the crash.

A crash reconstruction team determined that both drivers were traveling at the 55 mph speed limit, Cole stated, and neither vehicle applied the brakes before the collision.

The Free Soil-Meade and Grant Township fire departments, Life EMS and the medical examiner’s office assisted at the scene that night.

He is being detained at the Mason County Jail, and a preliminary examination is set for Wednesday, March 11 at 11:15 a.m. Bond was set at $5,000 personal recognizance.