Man to Plead Guilty to Manslaughter for 2011 Crash That Killed Classmate

By Erin Jordan, Reporter

TIFFIN, Iowa - A former Clear Creek Amana student will plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the 2011 death of a fellow cross-country athlete.

Zachary Swenka, 20, of North Liberty, was charged in September with vehicular homicide, a felony, based on allegations he was driving 100 mph in a 55-mph zone on Oct. 17, 2011, when his car crossed the center line and collided with an oncoming minivan.

Part of the left rear section of Swenka's car was torn off, ejecting and killing Mackenzie Lown, 14, police reported.

Lown was one of five students traveling with Swenka from cross-country practice at Kent Park, court records state. Swenka and the other passengers were also hurt in the crash.

Swenka will plead guilty Sept. 6 to involuntary manslaughter, an aggravated misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of $6,250.

The Johnson County Attorney's Office on Friday amended the charges against Swenka to include the lesser charge, which states Swenka "unintentionally caused the death of another person by the commission of an act in a manner likely to cause death or serious injury."

"The parties have reached a plea agreement," District Court Judge Marsha Bergan wrote in a pretrial order filed Friday. "Defendant will be entering a guilty plea in open court and requesting immediate sentencing."

Lown's parents filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Swenka in February 2012, but dismissed that in June 2012 and filed a replacement lawsuit against the Clear Creek Amana School District.

In their lawsuit, Michael Lown and Kelly Smith accuse the district of, among other things, violating their own policy by failing to provide safe transportation for cross-country students to and from practice. The suit is scheduled for trial Dec. 10.

Swenka, who was released on recognizance after the criminal charges, had "previously bragged about how fast he can drive," the criminal complaint states.

"Several of the passengers asked (Swenka) to slow down," Iowa State Troopers reported. "He laughed and did not slow down."

The two people in the minivan -- Bryan Scott Cooling and Toni Harney Cooling, both of Oxford – also were injured and hospitalized.
facebook twitter email alerts you tube hooplanow

 close  don't show again