Accident leads to arrests of drunk drivers

Posted: Friday, May 26, 2006

A sport-utility vehicle driven by an alleged drunken driver was totaled Tuesday night after rolling over on Mendenhall Loop Road when struck by a truck driven by another allegedly impaired driver.

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Juneau police arrested David Hamilton, 24, for drunken driving after the 1988 Chevrolet truck he was operating struck the back of a 1981 Ford Bronco II at about 11:32 p.m., sending the SUV tumbling off the road near View Drive. The alleged driver of the Ford, 39-year-old Ross Mercer, fled the scene and was later arrested for drunken driving near Melvin Park.

Assistant Police Chief Tom Porter said he is not aware of the two drivers being acquainted prior to the accident and couldn't say if there were any horseplay or malicious intentions involved with the wreck.

"It appeared that speed may be a factor, but of course the investigation is still ongoing," he said.

Officers found a 40-year-old woman trapped inside the Bronco. Capital City Fire and Rescue extricated the woman and transported her to Bartlett Regional Hospital, where she was treated for minor injuries.

Porter said the victim was fortunate.

"I can tell you that any time you have a vehicle that rolls to the point to where it winds upside down, it's pretty serious," he said.

Both Hamilton and Mercer were charged with drunken driving and refusal to take a chemical test. Each charge is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and $5,000 in fines.

Matt Felix, executive director of the local National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence office, said Juneau is one of the heaviest drinking communities in the country. He said he is not surprised that both parties were allegedly drunk at the time of the accident.

"It just shows the high level of drunk driving in this community and the acceptance of drinking and driving," Felix said.

He said it is lucky that neither party was seriously injured in Tuesday's accident because it is eerily similar to one in the late 1970s in Juneau, when two people died.

Porter said the police department has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to driving while intoxicated.

"Drinking and driving is not tolerated," he said. "It's something that we take very seriously."



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