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Archive for Friday, May 1, 1998

CORONER: PEDESTRIAN INTOXICATED

May 1, 1998

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Douglas County prosecutors will withhold a decision on what charges -- if any -- should be brought against the driver in a March fatality accident, pending more blood test results.

The pedestrian who died in a March 31 accident near an off-campus bar was legally intoxicated, a coroner's report made public Thursday shows.

Lisa Rosel, 19, a Kansas University freshman, had a blood-alcohol concentration of .097, according to Dr. Erik Mitchell's report. Kansas law considers a blood-alcohol concentration of .08 to be the legal limit for most drivers.

Rosel was walking across Tennessee Street outside Bullwinkle's bar, 1344 Tenn., shortly before midnight when she was struck and killed by a sports utility vehicle driven by Matthew Vestal, another KU student. Vestal, 18, had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.81 less than two hours after the accident, according to police breath test results.

Prosecutors will consider factors that contributed to the accident before deciding whether Vestal should be charged.

But, Douglas County Dist. Atty. Christine Kenney Tonkovich said her office won't consider the blood-alcohol concentration cited in Mitchell's report. His testing was completed with equipment at Stormont-Vail Hospital in Topeka.

Instead, the DA's office will rely on samples sent to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation lab in Topeka, because the KBI is recognized as the authoritative source in testing for criminal cases.

When those KBI lab results will be available is unknown.

``I'm assuming they'll probably be in soon, but I don't know for certain,'' Tonkovich said.

Mitchell's report states Rosel's friends told police she had ``four small beers'' before the accident.

``Ethanol intoxication may have interfered with judgment, but was not sufficient to be a pharmacological cause of demise,'' Mitchell wrote in the report, released Thursday to the Douglas County District Court.

Deputy Douglas County Coroner Donald Pojman said the alcohol level tested during the autopsy, about 10 hours after the accident, should be close to the results the KBI reaches.

``Preliminary results show the person was above the legal drinking limit and that may have had something to do with the accident, but no one is putting any legal weight on that, pending the outcome of the KBI toxicology tests,'' Pojman said.

Mitchell's report also noted that Rosel had a faint pulse when paramedics arrived minutes after the accident, but she died before rescue crews could remove her from under Vestal's vehicle.

--Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is ckoger@ljworld.com.

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