Petaluma man charged with two felonies in death of boy on birthday party outing

Criminal charges were filed Monday against a Petaluma man who took his daughter and some friends on an ill-fated birthday outing to Lake Mendocino that resulted in the roadside death of a 13-year-old party guest.

Mike Krnaich, 41, was charged with two counts of felony child endangerment in the June 15 accident that caused the death of Trevor Smith.

A father and longtime Little League coach, Krnaich could face a maximum prison term of seven years and four months if convicted, a prosecutor said.

Smith, who would have been in the eighth grade at Kenilworth Junior High this year, died after Krnaich's Chevrolet pickup ran out of gas en route to the lake north of Ukiah on Highway 101.

Krnaich was towing a ski boat when his fuel ran out just shy of the Lake Mendocino exit, and the boys in his truck -- apparently joined by the girls traveling with his wife in a vehicle just behind -- jumped out to push the truck toward the off-ramp.

But it gained momentum as the pickup crested the offramp toward a gas station below, authorities said.

Smith and another boy caught between the truck and the trailer tried to jump to the tailgate. Trevor didn't make it, fell to the ground and was run over by the trailer, the CHP said. He died at the scene.

Though the other boy landed safely, he was the reason for a second child endangerment charge, prosecutors said.

The CHP took some months to investigate the case, and the district attorney's review took even longer, in part because officials were awaiting toxicology results to ensure Krnaich had no alcohol or drugs in his system, Assistant District Attorney Paul Sequeira said. The lab tests came back clean, he said.

A vehicular manslaughter charge was considered, but prosecutors, focusing on the series of decisions that resulted in Smith's death, concluded that child endangerment better fit the circumstances, Deputy District Attorney Matt Hubley said Monday.

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