Coroner: Driver at fault in five fatal crash at Arapahoe was intoxicated, high
(Riverton, Wyo.) – Fremont County Coroner Mark Stratmoen Thursday said the driver at fault in the head-on collision that killed five people on June 3rd was intoxicated. According to a toxicology report, 25-year-old Whitney M. SunRhodes was over twice the legal limit for alcohol intoxication of 0.08 percent. The report said her blood alcohol was measured at 0.164 percent. Additionally, the tests showed she had a level of 4.5 Delta-9 THC in her bloodstream. That measure indicated she had been smoking marijuana within the last two hours before the crash. THC is the active ingredient in the drug. She also had lesser amounts of metabolized marijuana in her system that would not have impaired her.
“I would call her impaired, with the combination of alcohol and marijuana,” Stratmoen said. The Coroner said the legal limit for Delta-9 THC intoxication in Colorado, where marijuana use is legal, is 5 ng/mL. SunRhodes was just under that level. It was the combination, he reiterated, that made her impaired.
SunRhodes was driving westbound on the 17 Mile Road when her vehicle crossed the center line and hit an easbound vehicle head-on at 10:45 p.m. June 3. All of the occupants of the SunRhodes vehicle were killed and one of the occupants in the other vehicle died. The victims all died at the scene of blunt force head and chest trauma. None of those killed were wearing seat belts. The airbags inflated in both vehicles.
Stratmoen said Whitney SunRhodes’ death was ruled accidental, “because if you are driving impaired and kill yourself, it’s an accident. It is considered a homicide if the driver’s action directly results in the death of another, intended or not,” he said. The other four deaths, under that definition, were ruled homicide.
The toxicology reports on the victims indicated that all four occupants of the SunRhodes vehicle were over the legal limit of alcohol consumption. Besides the driver, Sandra Lucero, 54, had a blood alcohol level at 0.314 and a therapeutic level of Phenobarbital in her system (5.5 mcg/mL); 25-year-old Kristin SunRhodes’s blood alcohol level was 0.361 and Derrald R. Antelope’s blood alcohol was measured at 0.308 percent. The lone fatality in the second vehicle, Elizabeth “Betty” Ridgely, 67, had a negative relevant toxicology report. None of those in the SunRhodes vehicle were wearing seat belts.
The driver of the vehicle that was struck, Melvin Leroy Arthur, 46, of Kinnear, was wearing a seat belt and survived the crash, along with Joann Marie Arthur, 61, of Kinnear and a 10 year-old female passenger. All three were flown to Colorado for specialized treatment and are now recovering from their injuries.