URBANA — A Rantoul man has been charged with aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol in connection with the death of a friend who was riding with him earlier this summer.
On Tuesday, Assistant State’s Attorney Elizabeth Dornik filed two counts of the Class 2 felony against Brent D. McCullough, 36, who listed an address in the 600 block of Heath Drive.
The charges allege that McCullough’s drunken driving in northern Champaign County on June 21 resulted in the death of his passenger, Eric Lowery, 34, who lived on Autumn Fields Lane in Rantoul.
Illinois State Police at Pesotum said McCullough was driving north on Interstate 57 near Thomasboro about 2 a.m. that Saturday when he lost control of the car, left the road to the right and hit a guardrail. The car went airborne, flipping over in the air, Dornik said.
Dornik said Mr. Lowery, one of three passengers with McCullough, was thrown out and sustained major head injuries. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Another passenger, Andrea Palivos, 30, of Rantoul, was trapped in the car, while a third passenger, Jeffrey Carter, 31, of Chicago, was outside the vehicle lying in the median when police arrived. Dornik said the report did not spell out any injuries they may have received.
She said a witness helped McCullough from the car. The witness also said that he found a clear bottle of liquor with a white label with gold letters on it, which McCullough took and threw in a ditch.
The troopers later found a tequila bottle in the median next to the car, which was different from the other bottle the witness described. That bottle was not found, she said.
McCullough was taken to Carle Foundation Hospital, where his blood alcohol content was measured at 0.11 percent, in excess of the 0.08 percent needed for a motorist in Illinois to be presumed intoxicated.
Dornik said McCullough had a prior conviction for driving under the influence in Champaign County in 2004.
If convicted of this aggravated DUI, McCullough faces a mandatory prison term of between three and 14 years. He is scheduled to be arraigned Friday.