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Published: Wednesday, 11/1/2000

Bar stripped of license in fatal crash

FOSTORIA - A bowling alley that served liquor to two underage girls before they died in a fiery crash has lost its license to serve alcohol.

Dunn's Lanes, Inc., was held responsible for allowing Sally Ann James, 19, and Courtney Russell, 18, to drink for two hours before they left the premises. The Fostoria women were killed Nov. 29, 1998, when their speeding car grazed a pole, slammed into a concrete culvert, and burst into flames. Autopsy reports showed Miss James, the driver, had a blood-alcohol content of 0.17 per cent, while Miss Russell had a blood-alcohol content of 0.07 per cent. In Ohio, drivers are considered legally drunk if their blood-alcohol level is 0.10 or higher.

“There was no doubt in our mind and no doubt among those on the commission that those two girls were served alcohol, which played a part in the accident that killed them,” said Earl Mack, agent in charge of the Toledo-area liquor enforcement office of the Ohio Department of Public Safety.

Dunn's Lanes will lose its liquor license on Nov. 16. The Ohio Liquor Control Commission permanently revoked the license after a hearing in October.

Dave Conrad, an owner of Dunn's Lanes, said an appeal of the ruling had been prepared. It was filed yesterday with the Ohio Liquor Control Commission.

The girls had been with Mark Vasquez, 18, of Fostoria, celebrating his birthday at the bowling alley.

Mr. Vasquez pleaded no contest to charges of improper handling, a reduction of an original charge of underage drinking.

Mr. Vasquez served two days in jail, was fined $300, and placed on a year's probation for the misdemeanor conviction.

The bar was given three citations for selling to underage persons, allowing underage persons to consume on the premises, and complicity to vehicular homicide. No criminal charges were filed against the establishment.

A barmaid, Lucinda Leisure, was charged with supplying intoxicants to minors. She pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was fined. Ms. Leisure still works at the bar, Mr. Conrad said.

“The finding of the commission was that Vasquez was a credible witness who testified that he purchased intoxicating liquor and gave it to the girls,” said Chuck SanFilippo, executive director of the Ohio Liquor Control Commission.

Mr. Mack said an agent interviewed numerous people.

“The parents of the girls played substantial roles in helping get good information,” Mr. Mack said. “It was hard for them. They each lost a child. But they wanted to see the girls' deaths had some meaning and that no one else would suffer at the hands of the same place.”

The parents reportedly have expressed satisfaction with the decision to punish the business but were not available for comment yesterday.

Mr. Conrad, a co-owner of the bar, said he and other employees believed the women were old enough to drink.

“We checked Vasquez's driver's license numerous times. It said he was 21. We said we assumed they all were legal age, but the commission didn't believe us,'' he said.

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