Alcohol, inhalants suspected in crash outside hospital | News

OWATONNA — Two people were hurt and one arrested after police say a driver passed out and crashed into another car and the Owatonna Hospital sign after huffing aerosol duster while driving.

Andres Vargas, 32, of Owatonna was charged Thursday with two counts of DWI, criminal vehicular operation, and open bottle and vehicle insurance violations. He faces up to a year in jail if convicted of the most serious charge.

According to the complaint, officers responding to the crash at about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday found Vargas lying on the grass in front of the hospital next to a heavily damaged car that appeared to have flipped over. Another vehicle sitting in the entrance to the parking lot had serious rear-end damage.

At the scene and later in the hospital, Vargas told police he’d been drinking before driving and was drinking another beer in the car before the crash, and also that he had been inhaling industrial-strength duster while driving down the 26th Street hill.

“I’m sure inhaling the duster is why I crashed,” he reportedly told police.

Vargas blew a .093 BAC on a preliminary breath test and also submitted a blood draw.

Witnesses told officers they saw Vargas’ car, driving very fast, appear to pass four cars ahead of it on 26th street in a no-passing zone, then continued drifting left into the ditch in front of the hospital, launching the car into the vehicle stopped at the hospital entrance and then into the nearby sign, tearing up the landscaping around it.

The driver of the other vehicle hit told police she saw the bottom of Vargas’ car as it flew toward her and struck before she could get out of the way, and said she was banged up and might have something wrong with her shoulder.

Vargas told police he had bought the car within the past month and hadn’t had time to get insurance. According to court records, he has a previous DUI conviction from 2008 in Texas.

At a hearing Thursday, Vargas was set bail of $3,000 with conditions or $12,000 without. He is due back in court Monday.

William Morris is a reporter for the Owatonna People’s Press. He can be reached at 444-2372; follow him on Twitter @OPPWilliam

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