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Walnut Creek Man Involved in Fatal Crash Had History of Epilepsy

Charges were filed against a 32-year-old Walnut Creek man Thursday in connection to a crash that resulted in the death of a mother and a daughter in Danville.

John Peder Harris, 32, of Walnut Creek, had a history of epilepsy. He wasn't supposed to be driving.

Yet, he was.

, authorities say Harris ran the red light at the intersection of Sycamore Valley Road and Brookside Drive, hitting another car, killing its two passengers.

by the Danville Police Department, the Contra Costa County District Attorney's office filed charges against Harris. He is facing two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

"We know he ran the red light," said Hal Jewett, the prosecutor of the case. "We know he was going excess of the speed limit."

But was the epilepsy a factor?

"Possibly," Jewett said.

Harris was driving a Toyota 4-Runner, traveling westbound on Sycamore Valley Road, according to police, when he struck a southbound Dodge Durango. Elham Pirdavari, 51, of Danville, was driving that vehicle. Her mother, Mahin Dowlati, 72, also of Danville, was in the passenger seat. Both women were killed in the accident.

Jewett said Harris was supposed to be taking medication for the epilepsy, but he wasn't.

"He said the medication made him feel like a zombie," Jewett said. "But he got into his car... He made the decision to drive in the first place. It was a reckless and selfish decision."

Jewett said Harris is expected to turn himself in at 8:30 a.m. on Monday at the Walnut Creek Superior Courthouse, 640 Ygnacio Valley Road.

Danville Police Chief Steve Simpkins said the department's investigation showed no extraneous factors, such as texting, cell phone use or alcohol use, were involved in the accident.

“We believe this accident was caused by a negligent decision to drive which resulted in tragedy,” Simpkins said.

Correction: A previous version of this story had an error in John Peder Harris' name. This version corrects that error.

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