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Post Falls Driver Charged With Manslaughter In Crash

Sat., Jan. 27, 1996, midnight

A 38-year-old Post Falls man was charged with vehicular manslaughter Friday after an accident that killed a county employee.

Michael R. Opland, who has five prior speeding tickets and a drunken-driving conviction, could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Kootenai County Deputy Prosecutor Scot Nass said Friday he filed felony charges because it appears Opland was driving in a “grossly negligent manner.”

Idaho State Police Cpl. Brian Kitchen said the roads Wednesday were “as bad as they could be” and he was not able to drive faster than 35 to 40 mph to the accident scene.

“It was like walking on ball bearings out there,” Nass said.

Darlene King, 39, of Rathdrum, spent 10 years working as the Kootenai County commissioners’ administrative assistant. She died at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday when Opland’s truck slid on the icy road and smashed into her Subaru.

Opland, who was on his way home from work in Spirit Lake, was southbound on state Highway 41 behind a line of cars traveling about 30 to 35 mph.

According to an ISP report, Opland pulled into the northbound lane and attempted to pass several cars at 45 to 50 mph.

Opland said there were more cars than he thought when he tried to pass. When he saw King’s northbound car approaching, he said, he tried to get back into the southbound lane but no one would let him in.

Opland also told police he did not think the road was that slick until he lost control.

Although Opland was not driving faster than the posted 55 mph speed limit, he was driving far too fast for the weather conditions, investigators said Friday.

An arrest warrant was issued for Opland in part because of his driving record, Nass said. He’s being held in the Kootenai County Jail, with bail set at $25,000.

Opland has been cited five times for speeding, according to records in Montana and Idaho. A woman was hospitalized in 1994 after Opland’s car ran into the back of her car.

He was convicted of drunken driving in Montana. As a result, his license was suspended for six months - a term that was to end today, according to Montana State Highway Patrol records.

Investigators are trying to determine whether Opland had a valid permit that allowed him to drive to work and back when the accident happened Wednesday.

Opland also has been convicted of drug possession with intent to sell and with vandalizing a railroad crossing gate, according to state and county court records.

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