Friday, December 13, 2013
The driver of a pickup truck that hit a family as they bicycled in Biddeford had been convicted of drunken driving on four previous occasions and had a cooler with a small number of unopened beers with him at the time of the crash.
Rescuers attend to one of the victims at the scene of the crash in Biddeford on Friday.
Victor Dorais photo
On Monday, Biddeford police issued a statement saying that "alcohol may have been a factor" in the crash. They would not elaborate.
As a consequence of his prior drunken driving convictions, the driver, David Labonte, has a conditional license that does not allow him to have any detectable amount of alcohol in his system while driving.
No charges have been brought in the case, and police have not said what caused Labonte to cross the center line in his truck Friday evening on U.S. Route 1. Deputy Police Chief Joanne Fisk said Monday that it will be days before a blood-alcohol test is processed, and even longer for the investigation to be completed. Taking a blood sample for analysis is standard procedure in a crash with serious injuries.
Labonte, 56, was driving the pickup truck about 6 p.m. Friday when it hit a man and his wife -- who had their toddler son in a bike seat -- while they were riding bicycles on the sidewalk, then hit a parked pickup so hard that it drove a granite foundation block into a house.
There were no skid marks at the scene that would indicate Labonte tried to brake, police said.
Labonte said in an interview Sunday night that he suffers from asthma and had fainted after a coughing spell. Police said they plan to subpoena his medical records. He has no medical restrictions on his driver's license.
The 15-month-old boy who had been riding in the bicycle seat, identified by police as Lavarice Elliott, remained in critical condition Monday at Maine Medical Center. The child's father, Jamerico Elliott, 51, of Saco, who was riding that bicycle, also remained in critical condition at the Portland hospital. The boy's mother, Melodie Brennan, 30, was treated for injuries and released from the hospital.
"It's just such a rotten set of circumstances," said Fisk. "Here's a family just out on their bicycles on a nice evening. ... It's horrendous."
A small child suffering such severe injuries is troubling for public safety workers, Fisk said.
"It bothers these guys tremendously -- us, EMS, any first responders," she said.
Labonte has no automobile insurance, Fisk said.
Labonte was taken to the hospital for treatment immediately after the crash. There were no empty alcoholic beverage cans or bottles in the truck, but there was a cooler with a small amount of unopened beer in it, Fisk said.
Labonte's license was suspended for operating under the influence of alcohol on Dec. 26, 2005, when his blood-alcohol content was 0.23 percent, almost three times the legal limit to drive. It was suspended again on April 16, 2006, when his blood-alcohol test showed a concentration of 0.13 percent.
Labonte also was charged in the December 2005 incident with driving without lights and without wearing a seat belt, according to state driving history records. He also had drunken driving convictions in 1983 and 1988.
The two most recent drunken driving convictions are on Labonte's criminal record as well. It shows he served 72 hours in jail and paid a $600 fine for the 2005 offense. In the 2006 case, he sought a jury trial, was found guilty, served another 72-hour sentence and paid a $750 fine.
In both cases, his license was suspended for 90 days, according to state records. There were no indications in his driving or criminal records that any of the OUIs involved crashes or injuries.
His criminal record shows he also was fined for misdemeanor assaults in 1987 and 1989.
A message left for Labonte with his father in Biddeford, where Labonte has been staying, was not returned Monday night.
Labonte's driving record also indicates he was issued one speeding ticket in 2010, two in 2009 and one in 2008, all for driving between 9 mph and 14 mph over the speed limit. He was in a 35-mph zone when Friday's crash occurred, police said. They would not estimate how fast Labonte was going at the time of the crash, saying that will be determined by the accident reconstruction.
Biddeford police said Labonte's pickup truck, a blue Ford F-150, was headed north on U.S. Route 1 Friday evening when it crossed the center line and entered the parking lot of the RepubliCash and Western Union store at 364 Elm St. Route 1 in Biddeford is also known as Elm Street.
Elliott and Brennan were riding their bikes south on a sidewalk in front of the store when Labonte's truck struck them, police said.
The accident report on Friday's crash has not been completed, and police said the investigation into the cause will not be finished soon. The accident reconstruction process takes time, blood-alcohol tests won't be complete until at least the end of the week, and police will be seeking a search warrant to obtain the "black box" device from Labonte's vehicle, which should have recorded the speed and other factors immediately before the crash, police said.
The York County District Attorney's Office sent a representative to the crash scene. Police said that is standard procedure in a crash with serious injuries.
David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: