Good Samaritans help apprehend intoxicated driver

By Abby Morris
Star Staff

   A 77-year-old man who was driving dangerously on U.S. Highway 19E was detained by the crew of an Avery County ambulance and a good Samaritan driver until police arrived at the scene and charged him with driving under the influence.
   Ralph John Bailey, 204 Saint Andrew Dr., Banner Elk, N.C., was arrested Friday evening by Carter County Sheriff's Department Deputy Bradley Johnson and charged with first offense DUI and violation of the open container law.
   According to reports, Johnson was summoned to U.S. Highway 19E between Hampton and Roan Mountain on a report of a reckless driver headed south. "911 Center stated that the vehicle was all over the road, crossing into oncoming traffic and running vehicles off the road," states Johnson in his report. "While in the process of attempting to locate (the vehicle) 911 Comm. Center advised that Avery County, N.C., EMS Unit No. 2 was behind the vehicle and (they) were in the area of Chicken Ridge."
   While Johnson was en route to the scene, the 911 Communications Center advised him that the Avery County EMS unit had taken action to get the vehicle off of the roadway in an effort to avoid a traffic accident.
   When Johnson arrived on the scene he observed the described vehicle, a Chevrolet pickup truck, with the driver laying on the tailgate.
   "The Avery County EMS members, Karen McKinney and Heidi Fisher stated that they had to take action and try to get (Bailey) off the highway before he caused an accident," Johnson states in his report. "They also stated that they had observed (Bailey) crossing into the north lane causing the oncoming traffic to leave the roadway to prevent an accident.
   "The EMS members initiated their emergency lights and siren, while at the same time a vehicle in front of the defendant noticed what was taking place and slowed down, causing (Bailey) to come to a complete stop."
   When Johnson went to speak to Bailey, he smelled alcohol on him.
   Due to Bailey's age, Johnson had EMS personnel check his blood sugar level to make sure that he was not having a diabetic reaction. The test came back normal, according to the report.
   While speaking to Johnson, Bailey stated that he had consumed "two beers". During a search of Bailey's vehicle, Johnson discovered a 750 milliliter bottle of vodka with one third of the contents gone in the cup holder of the vehicle. Johnson also located a cup which contained a small amount of a clear liquid which had the odor of an alcoholic substance, according to the report.
   At that time, Johnson took Bailey into custody and charged him with DUI and violation of the open container law.
   "(Bailey) was so intoxicated that the EMS members had to assist him to the cruiser. He could not walk on his own," states Johnson in his report. "(Bailey) was so intoxicated that it was impossible to administer a field sobriety test."
   After arriving at the Carter County Jail, Bailey agreed to submitted to a chemical test to determine his level of intoxication. "(Bailey) made three attempts to blow into the machine but could not give or would not give sufficient air to be tested," states Johnson in his report.