DeFUNIAK SPRINGS - A teenager faces manslaughter charges in the death of her friend, a fellow South Walton High School student killed earlier this year in a crash near Freeport.
Elyse Bushee, 17, was arrested Wednesday afternoon and charged with DUI manslaughter, DUI with injury, DUI, possession of alcohol by a minor and failing to stop at a stop sign, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. She was released from the county courthouse into her parents' custody.
The January crash, a one-vehicle accident on County Road 83A, killed Meghan Burkhart-Smith, a junior at South Walton, and injured Bushee and another girl. Of the three girls, Burkhart-Smith, a back-seat passenger, was the only one wearing a seatbelt.
She was buried days later, as FHP troopers investigated the crash and the hours leading up to it.
Eventually, investigators came to believe the girls had come from a house party
near Freeport - where minors had access to alcohol
, according to an FHP report. After they left, Bushee, 16 at the time, ran a stop sign
at State Road 20, crossed the highway and slammed into a tree.
Bushee's blood tests were listed as pending for weeks, and during that time troopers said the state attorney's office was determining whether charges could be filed.
The manslaughter charges against Bushee follow the arrest of 37-year-old Jeffery Wood, whom lawmen say provided alcohol at the party - which was held by his son. Wood has since pleaded not guilty to charges of hosting an open house party, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and giving false information to a law enforcement officer.