Heatley indicted in fatal crash

NHL star Dany Heatley has been indicted on six charges relating to the September car crash that killed his friend and teammate Dan Snyder.

Fulton County district attorney Paul Howard announced the indictment Friday afternoon in Atlanta.

Heatley, a forward with the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers, faces charges of vehicular homicide in the first degree, vehicular homicide in the second degree, reckless driving, driving too fast for conditions, failure to maintain his lane and speeding.

Heatley, 23, faces up to 20 years in prison and $5,000 US in fines if convicted on all counts.

There is no mandatory prison sentence for these types of crimes, giving the judge some leeway, said Howard. A probation sentence could also be an option for Heatley, he added.

"Citizens must be held accountable when they ignore traffic laws, which are there to protect and safeguard all of us," said Howard.

"All of us have driven too fast at one time or another, but this case involves extreme speed in relationship to this curving, well-travelled road in a residential area."

Heatley's lawyer, Ed Garland, said his client was involved in a horrible accident, but that the case does not justify a homicide charge.

"We don't want any sentence that would put him in jail, destroy his career, or have him deported from the United States," he said Friday.

Snyder, 25, died Oct. 5, 2003 from massive head trauma sustained in a high-speed accident involving Heatley six days earlier. His family has expressed support for Heatley.

Police allege Heatley was driving his Ferrari approximately 130 kilometres per hour down a narrow, two-lane Atlanta road when he spun out of control and smashed into a brick and wrought-iron fence.

Snyder was ejected 30 feet from the vehicle, which was shredded in half, and suffered a fractured skull. He underwent two hours of emergency brain surgery but never emerged from his coma.

The Snyder family released a statement through the Thrashers after the announcement.

"Our feelings have never changed and we continue to support Dany and the entire Heatley family," the statement read. "Despite our personal feelings in this matter, we respect the responsibility of the district attorney's office and the legal process."

Heatley suffered a broken jaw, a minor concussion, a bruised lung and kidney in the crash. He also had surgery to repair torn medial collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments as well as the lateral meniscus in his right knee.

Heatley had consumed alcohol but was not impaired during the crash, as tests conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation showed that his blood-alcohol level was well below the state legal limit.

Heatley, a Calgary native, spent most of last season recovering from injuries sustained in the crash. He was limited to just 31 NHL games.

Thrashers general manager Don Waddell still plans on Heatley joining the team in training camp in September.

"Throughout the process, we felt that, and continue to feel that, the end result will show that this was truly an accident, and Dany will be ready to play," Waddell said Friday.

Prior to that, Heatley is scheduled to be a member of the Canadian team participating in this summer's World Cup of Hockey, which runs Aug. 30-Sept. 14.

with files from Associated Press