Wednesday, April 16, 2014
BIDDEFORD — The pickup truck driver who allegedly hit a family of bicyclists in Biddeford last week had been drinking, police said Thursday, a day after the father struck by the truck died of his injuries.
Rescuers attend to one of the victims at the scene of the crash in Biddeford on Friday. Jamerico Elliott, 52, who was hit by a pickup truck while cycling with his family last Friday has died from his injuries. His 15-month-old son is still in critical condition.
Victor Dorais photo
An analysis of the driver’s blood taken at the hospital showed he had been drinking, despite being forbidden to have any trace of alcohol in his system while driving, police said.
David Labonte, 56, who has not been charged, at first refused to let police administer a breath or blood test after the 6 p.m. crash Friday on Elm Street, said Police Chief Roger Beaupre. But an assistant York County district attorney drafted a search warrant showing probable cause that Labonte had been drinking, based on reports from rescue workers and other first responders at the scene, Beaupre said.
“We had probable cause (to believe) the person had been drinking prior to the accident,” Beaupre said. “We have a ballpark idea what his numbers are going to be.”
Beaupre noted that the hospital ran an analysis on a sample of Labonte’s blood, and a sample was also sent to the State Crime Lab in Augusta for testing. He said he has been asked by prosecutors not to release the actual blood-alcohol content in the sample analyzed by the hospital, but that it tested positive for the presence of alcohol.
Labonte has been staying with his parents in Biddeford. A man who identified himself as his brother answered the door at the home on Thursday. He said Labonte was not home and he declined to speak for his brother. He also said he did not know the name of his brother’s attorney. Labonte did not respond to a message left with his brother.
Meanwhile Thursday, family and friends mourned the death of Jamerico Elliott. The 52-year-old father had been listed in critical condition for five days and undergone multiple surgeries at Maine Medical Center in Portland, but succumbed to his injuries late Wednesday afternoon, police said. His son, Lavarice Elliott, 15 months old, remains in critical condition.
Lavarice’s mother, Melodie Brennan, 30, was treated and released the day of the crash and has been keeping a vigil at Maine Med.
Jamerico Elliott, known to his friends as “Rico,” was a kind-hearted friend and a dedicated father, recalled Lisa Allen, who has lived for several months in the same apartment building as the family.
“He played with him, he napped with him, he made sure the baby had everything he needed,” Allen said. “Lavarice always came first.”
Elliott would play blocks with his son, or with the boy’s favorite Elmo doll, she said.
Elliott also was helpful around the building, and looked after Allen after she burned her hand badly in a grease fire, she said.
The family was out for a bike ride, which they did regularly, when the truck driver apparently crossed three lanes of traffic and hit them, breaking Elliott’s bicycle in two and throwing the child from the child seat in which he was riding. Police found no skid marks at the scene that would indicate Labonte tried to brake.
Labonte initially told rescue workers that he had a heart attack, Beaupre said. He later told a reporter for the Portland Press Herald that he was returning from his job as a painter, had been coughing, had an asthma attack and fainted.
Police have subpoenaed Labonte’s medical records as part of the investigation. Officials have said he had a cooler in the truck with a small number of unopened beers.
An officer rode with Labonte in the ambulance to the hospital after the crash and stayed with him until about three hours later when the blood sample was taken, Beaupre said.
Labonte was not legally allowed to refuse a blood test. State law dictates that whenever a crash causes serious injury or death, drivers must consent to a blood test, Beaupre said.
The blood sample delivered to the State Crime Lab is not scheduled to be processed until Monday.
Results could be available late Monday or Tuesday, Beaupre said. The department has repeatedly requested the results, but because of staff vacations and blood samples from other cases that also need to be tested, the blood sample from Labonte was not processed this week, he said.
Once the results are released, Labonte would face charges if any alcohol was in his system at the time of the crash, since he has a conditional driver’s license prohibiting any level of alcohol. His license was restricted because he has four drunken driving convictions on his record dating back to the 1980s.
David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or: