Alcohol violations at Gumtree Road Pantry added in Christmas crash on Hilton Head

mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comDecember 30, 2013 

Matthew Andrew Zitello

Alcohol violations were added Monday to the case of a Christmas night single-vehicle accident on Hilton Head Island that seriously injured a 19-year-old woman, according to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office.

Both the driver of the vehicle, 19-year-old Hilton Head resident Matthew Zitello, and the Pantry convenience store on Gumtree Road, were cited for alcohol violations, a news release said.

Zitello bought a 25-ounce can of beer at the convenience store before the crash, according to the release.

Zitello did not show identification to buy the beer, and the clerk has been charged with selling beer or wine to a minor.

Zitello was driving east on Dolphin Head Drive inside Hilton Head Plantation about 11:30 p.m. on Christmas when his Infiniti QX sport utility vehicle passed through a traffic circle, went airborne and struck a tree, S.C. Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Bob Beres said last week.

The car was found overturned about 100 feet into the Seabrook Drive wood line, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Zitello's passenger, 19-year-old Vianery Garcia, was trapped in the vehicle. She was extricated from the vehicle by Hilton Head Fire & Rescue Division firefighters and airlifted to Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, where she remains in critical condition.

Both Garcia and Zitello were wearing seat belts, Beres said. Garcia and Zitello are 2013 graduates of Hilton Head High School.

Authorities found Zitello sitting in the grass on Dolphin Head Drive after the crash, and the Highway Patrol charged him with felony driving under the influence. He was also charged Monday with one misdemeanor count of possession of beer or wine by a minor, the news release said.

After an investigation by the Sheriff's Office Alcoholic Beverage Control team, the 23-year-old store clerk who sold the beer to Zitello was charged Monday, the release said.

Zitello purchased the beer from the Pantry about 10 p.m., about 90 minutes before the crash. Investigators who conducted interviews and watched store videos determined that Zitello bought the beer without having to show identification to prove he was of legal age, the release said.

The clerk was cited with one misdemeanor count of the sale of beer or wine to a person younger than 21. The clerk was arrested about 1:30 p.m. Monday and was being held at the Beaufort County Detention Center pending a bond hearing, according to the jail log.

The store's citation for selling the beer is an administrative violation against its beer and wine permit and will be heard and reviewed by the S.C. Department of Revenue, which oversees those permits, the release said. Violations can result in revocation or suspension of a permit or a fine, according to department regulations.

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