Two charged with DUI in January's fatal I-75 wrecks
Published: Friday, August 10, 2012 at 10:44 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 10, 2012 at 10:44 a.m.
Two drivers involved in the Jan. 29 crashes that killed 11 people on a smoky stretch of Interstate 75 have been charged with DUI following investigations by the Florida Highway Patrol.
Charged were James Buford Madison, 22, of Winter Park, and Jeffrey Stockton Mitchell, 52, of Venice, according to warrants filed by FHP and released Friday morning.
The men were both driving vehicles northbound. A string of crashes occurred in both the northbound and southbound lanes when traffic rolled into a bank of thick fog and smoke from a smoldering wildfire at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.
State Attorney Bill Cervone said he considered not pursuing prosecution of the warrants filed by FHP but opted to because of the circumstances of the cases.
"We did consider that they have been through a lot. One of the men has a fairly significant traffic history that includes a DUI, so that clearly makes a difference," Cervone said. "It's not uncommon that DUI arrests result from some other innocuous thing that causes them to come in contact with law enforcement. Generally we proceed unless there is some legal problem with whatever underlies the stop. Having been involved in this accident could be mitigation but it does not exonerate them."
The warrant states that a trooper spoke with three people who had been in Madison's car. They said they first hit a semi and then a car before driving off the road into the swale.
Based on their appearance and an odor of alcohol, the trooper suspected they might have been drinking.
A trooper assigned to check on victims at hospitals spoke with Madison at North Florida Regional Medical Center and detected an odor of alcohol. A blood sample was taken and found to have a concentration of .123, according to the report. The legal standard for impairment in Florida is .08.
Madison did not directly cause or contribute to any of the deaths or severe injuries, so he was charged with "simple" DUI rather than a more harsh charge such as DUI manslaughter, the report states.
Meanwhile, a trooper at the scene examined the car in which Mitchell was the only occupant and found several open, unopened, spilled and broken bottles of Budweiser beer.
A trooper at Shands at the University of Florida detected the odor of alcohol on Mitchell. A blood test showed an alcohol concentration of .105. Mitchell also was charged with simple DUI because his crash did not result in deaths or injuries.
Cervone said Mitchell has a previous arrest for DUI but was convicted of reckless driving instead.
FHP on Friday released homicide reports on the four deaths that happened in the southbound lanes — three of whom were from the same family — and no charges were filed as a result of those.
Homicide reports on the northbound accidents have not been completed.
FHP's response to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into the crashes also was released Friday morning along with several FHP reports regarding specific deaths from the crashes.