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Neurosurgeon, 36, ‘drove at more than 130mph’ before crash that killed medical student

Prosecutors in Alabama said during a bond hearing that a Mobile neurosurgeon was possibly driving at speeds topping 130mph before a crash that killed a medical student who was a passenger in his car. 

Dr Jonathan Nakhla, 36, has been charged with manslaughter stemming from the accident that took place on the I-65 Service Road in Mobile in the early hours of August 1.

According to police, Nakhla was behind the wheel of his high-performance Audi convertible while 24-year-old medical student Samantha Alison Thomas was riding in the car as a passenger. 

During Nakhla’s bond hearing on Wednesday, prosecutors said that the neurosurgeon had been going 138mph in a 45mph zone before swerving to avoid another vehicle, which caused his car flip over and land in a ditch near the Econo Lodge Hotel, reported

Thomas was pronounced dead at the scene from her injuries. 

Nakhla was taken to a hospital to be treated for non-life-threatening injuries. He was booked into the Mobile County Metro Jail on Monday. 

Dennis Knizley, one of Nakhla’s attorneys, pushed back against the prosecution’s narrative that his client had been speeding, arguing that because his Audi had rolled over, data taken from the vehicle’s ‘black box’ was unreliable. 

‘Event data recorders record the speed of the tire going around and as they said in court today, the car flipped,’ Knizley told Fox 10 TV. ‘Once the tire is no longer in contact with the surface, it no longer indicates the speed of the car but it indicates the tire…so you know how fast the tire is going.’

Police have said that Nakhla was driving under the influence and had blood alcohol level above Alabama’s 0.08 legal limit, but so far he has not been charged with a DUI.

Prosecutors with the Mobile County DA’s Office said they are awaiting the final toxicology results, according to WKRG. 

Nakhla’s lawyer said he believes the neurosurgeon, who works at Mobile Infirmary, was driving an Audi R8 Spyder, a luxury car that can go from 0 to 60mph in under 4 seconds. Spyder models from 2020 start at more than $182,000.

Knizley described Thomas, a third-year student at University of South Alabama Medical School, as a family friend of the surgeon, who is a married father of two. 

At the time of the accident, Nakhla was reportedly living in the same building as Thomas. 

His wife was present during Wednesday’s hearing and was seen crying in the courtroom. 

A judge set Nakhla’s bond at $200,000, ordered him to surrender his passport and barred him from going out of state without permission. 

Nakhla posted bond in the afternoon and was released from jail. He is due back in court on September 2. 

If convicted of the manslaughter charge, the 36-year-old doctor could face up to 20 years in prison. He has been suspended from the hospital. 

Thomas is survived by her parents and sister, Jennifer. The family are planning to start a scholarship in her name in conjunction with the the University of South Alabama.  

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