Court date set for Paso Robles man charged in 2012 New Year's crash that killed teen passenger

Attorneys will discuss a possible plea next month in the case of a Paso Robles man charged in a New Year’s crash that killed an 19-year-old passenger.

Eric Luth, 21, was supposed to appear in court for a preliminary hearing Thursday. But he waived his right to the hearing, and a pre-plea report was ordered in the case. Pre-plea reports, which summarize cases, are used to negotiate a possible plea, but they do not require a plea be negotiated.

Police said Luth was driving under the influence around 3 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2012 when he attempted to pass another vehicle on Linne Road in Paso Robles. As he was trying to pass the slower vehicle, he crashed into an oak tree. One of his passengers, Lester Lara, 19, a Cuesta College student from Paso Robles, was thrown from the vehicle, which landed on him.

Lara had not been wearing a seat belt.

Luth, who was hospitalized in critical condition after the accident, appeared to be in good health Thursday during his court appearance.

According to the CHP, six of the seven teens involved in both cars were intoxicated. The driver of the slower vehicle, Tanner Storsteen, 19, is set to appear in court for a pretrial hearing Monday on charges of drunk driving and unlawful taking of a vehicle.

Luth will return to court Jan. 31.