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Shoemaker Was Legally Under the Influence

April 11, 1991|ELLIOTT ALMOND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bill Shoemaker had a blood-alcohol content of 0.13%, or nearly twice the legal limit, when his car rolled almost 50 feet down a steep embankment in San Dimas Monday night, California Highway Patrol authorities said Wednesday. The single-car accident left him partially paralyzed from a broken neck.

Shoemaker, horse racing's all-time winningest jockey, remained in critical condition at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood Wednesday. Doctors declined to release any new information at the family's request.

Joe Flores of the CHP said an accident report will be sent to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office at Pomona Municipal Court today. Prosecutors will decide whether to level misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence. Under California law, a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% is considered driving under the influence.

Shoemaker does not have a record of alcohol-related traffic violations, Flores said.

"We assume he fell asleep due to intoxication," Flores said. "That is consistent with what the witness statements said of his driving. He just veered for no apparent reason, and his hand went with the movement over to the right on the steering wheel. We see that a lot in DUIs. That's how they crash solo all the time."

Shoemaker, who retired last year as a jockey and currently trains horses, spent Mondayafternoon playing golf at Sierra La Verne Country Club with Don Pierce, also a jockey turned trainer, and three others. After the game, he and Pierce stayed at the club and had "a fewbeers."

"I've seen him drink a lot more and drive," Pierce told the Associated Press. "There was nothing new about having a couple of beers after golf."

Ernest Noble, a UCLA professor of alcohol studies, said a blood-alcohol level of 0.13% for a man of Shoemaker's size is equivalent to consuming five or six drinks in about 90 minutes. Shoemaker is 4 feet 11 and about 100 pounds.

"He is a smaller body size, so that would bring him up to a higher level of alcohol," Noble said.

Pierce said the two made plans to meet at a restaurant in Arcadia, but Shoemaker never arrived.

On the way to meet Pierce, Shoemaker's 1990 Ford Bronco II drifted over the side of the road, fell nearly 50 feet down an embankment and rolled over several times before landing upright on a transition lane of the Foothill Freeway.

A motorist driving westbound on the road below had to swerve to avoid hitting Shoemaker's car. The motorist, Terry Fisher of San Dimas, then stopped and went to Shoemaker's aid.

When he first saw Shoemaker, he wasn't breathing, Fisher said. "First, I wiped the blood off his face and put his tongue back in his mouth. Then I made sure the throat passage was clear," he said. After a while, Fisher said, Shoemaker began to breathe and paramedics arrived shortly thereafter.

Shoemaker, who was wearing a seat belt, also suffered a broken pelvis, a cut on his head and internal injuries.

Shoemaker rode in more than 40,000 races, winning 8,833 times in a career that spanned 41 years. He won 1,009 stakes races and purses totaling more than $123 million.

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