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Pickup Driver in Firetruck Collision Was Sober

Blood test comes back at .01, well below the legal level for intoxication. Accident's cause remains unclear, deputy says.

November 22, 2000|THERESA MOREAU | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Investigators probing last week's collision between a fire engine and a pickup truck said Tuesday the pickup's driver was not intoxicated at the time.

A blood test taken 2 1/2 hours after the accident showed that the driver, 44-year-old Antonio Velasque Ortega, had a blood alcohol level of .01--well below the .08 legal limit, said Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Doan.

The collision occurred at 1:59 p.m. as Ortega and his son drove north along San Juan Creek Road into the La Novia Avenue intersection in San Juan Capistrano. The fire engine was headed to a reported chimney fire that turned out to be a false alarm.

Ortega and his 11-year-old son were listed in critical condition and in drug-induced comas at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo.

Investigators found an empty vodka bottle near the scene but said they don't know if it is connected to the case.

Doan said his department is still trying to determine the cause of the accident and who is at fault.

He said it remains unclear who had the green light but added: "I do know the Fire Department was rolling with Code 3 with emergency lights and sirens.

"The other vehicle is supposed to yield to the firetruck."

The severity of the injuries suffered by Ortega and his son was due in part to the fact that their 4,000-pound truck collided with a 40,000-pound fire vehicle.

"When you are up against that kind of weight, you are going to lose," Doan said.

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