An 86-year-old man has been charged with vehicular assault and a DUI for a wrong-way crash on Interstate 5 in Tacoma. Police say the University Place man was driving under the influence (DUI) at the time of the accident. The driver, Panos Spiros Palas, reportedly had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.123 percent, well over the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Palas pleaded not guilty, during his arraignment before Judge Garold Johnson in Pierce County Superior Court. Judge Johnson ordered Palas jailed in lieu of a $35,000 bail. According to Washington State Patrol Trooper Guy Gill, Palas ended up driving northbound in the southbound lanes of I-5. His Toyota RAV4 soon collided with two other cars.
Pals first hit a Dodge Caravan, just south of Portland Avenue, then veered head-on into a Honda Accord, which was carrying four passengers. A 36-year-old woman from Tulalip, who was a passenger in the car, suffered a broken leg in the crash, and was taken to the St. Joseph Medical Center for treatment. Two other people were injured, but the Injuries were reported to be non-life threatening. The crash left all southbound lanes of the I-5 for over an hour on a Monday night around 11 p.m. Traffic was backed up for nearly two miles before reopening just after 1 a.m.
Palas had allegedly been driving from Auburn, and got mixed up in a construction area near the Tacoma Dome. According to a trooper, Palas smelled of intoxicants, and spoke with a slur after the accident. Palas denied drinking alcohol, but later admitted that he had been drinking brandy for a cough, and said brandy helped with his medicine.
Heading the wrong way down the highway is unfortunately a regular occurrence for drivers under the influence of alcohol. In Tampa, Florida, a man was recently observed driving the wrong way down I-275. At about 3 a.m., a Florida highway patrol trooper caught the incident on video before quickly turning around to catch up with and pull over the driver.
Several drivers had called 911 to report the Nicolas Murcia's driving northbound in the southbound fast lane. The wrong-way driver failed a field sobriety test, and was arrested on DUI charges. His BAC was later measured at 0.161 percent, more than twice the legal limit. This was also not the first DUI for the 39-year-old Tampa man.
Within the past month, drunk drivers in at least two other states were arrested after driving the wrong way down the interstate. In Newton County, Georgia, a 41-year-old woman was arrested and charged with a DUI after the police pulled over her Red Dodge Avenger driving the wrong way down Interstate 20. In Illinois, a 22-year-old woman is facing DUI charges after a head-on crash on I-55. At about 1:30 a.m., police began receiving calls about a driver traveling northbound in the southbound lanes. The collision resulted in both drivers being taken to the hospital, with non-life threatening injuries.