Friday, December 6, 2013
A motorist who passed David Labonte moments before his pickup crashed into a family of cyclists, ultimately killing the father, said the driver appeared to be asleep, according to a police affidavit.
Rescuers attend to one of the victims at the scene of the crash in Biddeford on Friday.
Victor Dorais photo
Labonte's blue Ford pickup crossed the centerline and two lanes of oncoming traffic before colliding with bicycles ridden by Jamerico Elliott and Melodie Brennan. Their 17-month-old son Lavarice Elliott was riding in a child seat on the back of his father's bicycle.
Witnesses, including an off-duty Kennebunk police lieutenant, said Labonte did not try to avoid the crash, according to a police affidavit submitted to Biddeford District Court in support of a search warrant. There were no skid marks at the scene that would have indicated Labonte tried to brake.
Witnesses said Labonte was going at or slightly above the 35 mph speed limit and almost hit an oncoming car, the affidavit said. The driver of that car looked into Labonte's truck cab and saw he had his head down. The other driver then watched in her rearview mirror as he crossed the road and hit the cyclists.
The police affidavit, written by Officer Andrew Allaire, was in support of search warrants to obtain medical records and blood drawn by Southern Maine Medical Center as well as to compel Labonte to provide a blood sample to test for alcohol.
Labonte initially refused to provide a blood sample, according to the affidavit.
The crash occurred at 6 p.m. Aug. 2, in front of 364 Elm St. as the family was returning from a bicycle ride. Lavarice Elliott was wearing a helmet, although his parents were not, the affidavit said.
The child remains in critical condition at Maine Medical Center as of Friday morning. Jamerico Elliott died Wednesday from his injuries. Brennan escaped the worst of the crash impact but still had a broken ankle and back pain, police said.
When police arrived, father and son were barely breathing and both were badly scraped and bleeding from the collision and the impact with the asphalt parking lot, the affidavit said.
Labonte was still in the truck when emergency responders arrived. He said his chest hurt and he worried he was having a heart attack, the affdavit said. Rescue workers treated him and he was taken to Southern Maine Medical Center.
Labonte told a Portland Press Herald reporter over the weekend that he had been coughing, has asthma and fainted. He had been returning from a painting job, he said.
Allaire said he could smell no alcohol, possibly because of the dust in the air from Labonte's airbag deploying. He also noted no impairment. However, rescue workers did report signs of impairment, the affidavit said. The affidavit did not elaborate.
Allaire said that in the cab of the truck he found a cooler with what appeared to be the remains of Labonte's lunch and an unopened can of Bud Light.
Labonte has four previous convictions for drunk driving and has a conditional license which does not allow him to have any alcohol in his system when driving.
The court records do not indicate what the blood alcohol content in Labonte's hospital sample was, but Biddeford Police Chief Roger Beaupre said Thursday that police have a good idea of the level of alcohol in Labonte's system at the time of the crash from that sample. He said the level does not contradict officers' assertion that there was probable cause to believe Labonte had been drinking.
Police took a second sample of Labonte's blood after a judge granted a search warrant for it, and have sent that to Augusta for testing. Police expect to have results late Monday or Tuesday, Beaupre said.
No charges have been filed against Labonte, although police say he does not have any automobile insurance, a state requirement.