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Published: Friday, 2/22/2008

Driver in fatal Jerusalem Township collision almost 4 times more drunk than legal

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Albert Michalak III was almost four times more intoxicated than legally allowed when his pickup went nearly head on into an oncoming pickup last month on State Rt. 2 in Lucas County's Jerusalem Township, toxicology tests show.

He was killed in the Jan. 16 crash, as were two passengers in the other pickup, Armando Cantu, Jr., 35, and Arturo A. Lopez, 8, both of Curtice.

All died of multiple blunt-force injuries, Dr. James Patrick, Lucas County coroner, has ruled.

But test results indicate that the body of Mr. Michalak contained 0.3 percent alcohol per weight by volume. That's the same as blood-alcohol content, Dr. Patrick said.

In Ohio, drivers with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or more are intoxicated.

Tests also showed that Mr. Michalak had smoked marijuana recently, Dr. Patrick said.

Because marijuana is stored in the fat, that exposure could have been three or four days earlier.

The coroner's report lists such exposure "to indicate this is a person who indulges in risky behavior," Dr. Patrick said.

Mr. Michalak, 52, of Curtice had a prior drunken-driving conviction.

In 1996, he was convicted in Oregon Municipal Court of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. The same urine sample that revealed alcohol of about 0.164 gram per 100 milliliters also tested positive for marijuana. Court staff said the 0.164 gram urine reading was equivalent to a 0.14 percent blood test.

Mr. Michalak also had five speeding convictions since 2002.

He was westbound on Rt. 2 about 8:25 p.m. Jan. 16 and drove across the centerline just east of Lyon Road. He struck the eastbound pickup driven by Arturo M. Lopez, 29. The boy was his son. Mr. Cantu was a co-worker at the Maumee Bay Turf Center in Oregon.

Young Arturo often spent time with his father at work, where the boy was called, "Junior."

The passenger in the Michalak vehicle, Franklin J. Gander, 42, of Curtice, survived. Troopers at the Toledo post of the Ohio Highway Patrol are continuing their investigation.

The crash on Rt. 2 took place about 2 1/2 weeks after a family of five from Maryland was killed on I-280 as Michael Gagnon drove his pickup truck the wrong way on the interstate and hit the family's van.

Mr. Gagnon, 24, of Adrian, is charged with five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and two counts of aggravated vehicular assault for the wrong-way crash. Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Linda Jennings last week set an April 21 trial date.

Mr. Gagnon had a blood-alcohol level of 0.254 percent, records indicate.

Contact Mark Zaborney at:

mzaborney@theblade.com

or 419-724-6182.



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