PARIS – A 22-year-old man pleaded not guilty Thursday in Oxford County Superior Court to charges related to a fatal car accident last summer.

Mark E. Tardiff, Jr., of Eastman Hill Road in Porter, was arraigned on charges of manslaughter, aggravated operating under the influence, operating under the influence, and providing alcohol to minors.

According to Sgt. Timothy Ontengco of the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office, Tardiff was the driver of a 1997 Plymouth Neon that crashed on Route 25 in Porter at 1:30 a.m. on July 4.

Bianka Cousins, 17, of Parsonfield, was killed after the car skidded into a utility pole and rolled over onto its roof.

Devin Spencer and Erin Hartford, both 16, suffered minor injuries in the crash, as did Tardiff. They were taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland for treatment.

Ontengco said Tardiff was bringing the juveniles home after a pit party where alcohol was consumed. He said Tardiff and Cousins had dated at one point and Spencer and Hartford were mutual friends.

“At some point, there was some disagreement between the occupants,” said Ontengco.

According to interviews with Spencer and Hartford, Tardiff began driving at excessive speeds after the verbal argument and was unable to negotiate a curve, he said.

The Oxford County Sheriff’s Office was supported by the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office and Maine State Police in the crash investigation.

“The reconstruction indicated that the driver’s actions contributed to the crash,” said Ontengco.

Tardiff was arrested on July 9 on a probation violation. Ontengco said Tardiff was on probation for an assault charge and was not to use or possess alcohol.

Tardiff is currently serving a 300-day prison sentence. Defense attorney John Jenness Jr. said the sentence began in December and Tardiff could be released as early as April.

Justice Roland A. Cole set Tardiff’s bail $5,000 cash or $10,000 surety. Tardiff is also prohibited from using or possessing alcohol and operating a motor vehicle without a license.

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