Teen won’t talk to investigators about car crash

Daily Planet Wire Services
Friday June 14, 2002

ne death resulted  

from the Grizzly Peak  

Boulevard accident 


Oakland police said today that the 17-year-old driver of a car with four other teen-agers aboard that plunged off Grizzly Peak Boulevard in the Oakland hills has so far refused to speak with crash investigators.  

Traffic Operations Sgt. Russell Chew said the driver, identified only as a 17-year-old Oakland resident and student at McClymonds High School, has been arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and vehicular manslaughter. He was expected to attend a detention hearing today or Friday to decide whether he should remain in custody.  

Tuong Thien Ly, 17, of Oakland died in the crash at about 7:45 p.m. Tuesday near Grizzly Peak Boulevard and Fish Ranch Road. 

Chew said today that investigators believe the carload of teen-agers had been parked somewhere in the Oakland or Berkeley hills prior to the crash and that most or all of them, including the driver, had been drinking alcohol. Most of the teen-agers were students at McClymonds High School in Oakland, Chew said, and were in their last week of school. 

At some point, the group drove east on Grizzly Peak Boulevard, a windy mountain road, and about a half-mile before the intersection of Grizzly Peak Boulevard, Fish Ranch Road and Claremont Avenue, on a "severe curve'' to the left, the teens' car skidded straight and off the roadway, plunging about 400 feet down a hillside.  

Chew said the skid marks indicate that the driver reacted late in applying the brakes in response to the curve in the road. 

The car rolled over as it descended the hillside and some of the occupants were not wearing seat belts, Chew said. Chew said weather apparently did not play a role in the crash, as skies were clear and the roadway was dry at the time. The car was traveling at about 35 or 40 mph in an area with a speed limit of 25 mph. 

Investigators are still awaiting the results of blood-alcohol tests done on the driver, Chew said. 

"Because of the fact that the driver is under 21, it's zero tolerance,'' Chew said. A reading of ".08 percent is the legal limit, but if he had .01 or any trace of alcohol, he's in violation of the zero tolerance law.'' 

Three of the five occupants of the vehicle were able to make it back up the roadway after the crash and flag down a passing motorist. Two others, including the boy who died, were found at the bottom of the hill.  

A nursing supervisor at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek said this afternoon that one male crash victim brought the hospital is listed in serious condition with head injuries.  

A Highland Hospital nursing supervisor said two of the crash victims were treated and released at the hospital on Tuesday. A third patient is listed in good and stable condition and is said to be recuperating since being transferred out of the Intensive Care Unit.  

"The message which people need to get out of this is it doesn't matter if you're 16 or 17 or 56 or 57, drinking and driving is a deadly combination. This is a prime example of that.'' 

"You have a life cut short because of bad decision-making,'' Chew said. "It's really, really sad.'' 

Coincidentally, while investigators were at the scene Wednesday, another vehicle drove off the roadway in the same area. The driver suffered back injuries in the crash.