Man was drunk, driving 120 mph in fatal St. John crash
By Christin Nance Lazerus firstname.lastname@example.org March 19, 2013 4:12PM
David Hatfield, 39, of St. John. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 21, 2013 6:18AM
Traveling an estimated 120 mph and under the influence of alcohol, a St. John man is accused of causing a fiery crash which killed another man Sunday morning in St. John then fleeing the scene.
David R. Hatfield, 39, is charged with failure to stop after an accident resulting in death, a Class B felony; operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing death, a Class C felony; and several misdemeanors and infractions. He is currently at the Lake County Jail.
The crash, which killed 59-year-old Crown Point resident Paul Gebauer, occurred around 5:20 a.m. Sunday. When police arrived at the scene in the 9400 block of W. 109th Avenue, both vehicles had been destroyed by fire and Gebauer was lying face down across the driver’s seat. He died after suffering severe burns.
Hatfield’s blood-alcohol level registered 0.17 percent. Lake County Lt. Steve Trajkovich downloaded information from the Camaro’s airbag control module, which revealed that the car was traveling at 120 mph a mere 1.5 seconds prior to the collision. The impact of the Hatfield’s 2012 Chevy Camaro split the seam of the gas tank on Gebauer’s 1998 GMC van, causing fuel and fumes to escape and a fire to ignite.
A witness told police he and his wife were traveling north on Parrish Avenue when he saw a large flash of light to the east, which turned out to be the fire caused by the collision. He headed toward the crash scene to help. At the scene, he saw a man with short dark hair walking away from the Camaro. He asked the man if there was anyone in the van, and the man replied “there’s somebody in the other one” very coldly and callously as if it was of no concern to him. The witness tried to help Gebauer, but he couldn’t open the door because the fire made the handles too hot. He heard Gebauer screaming for help, and the witness tried to enter the van, but a loud explosion caused the van to become fully engulfed.
Officers found that Hatfield headed to the home of a friend in the Gates of St. John subdivision. Hatfield’s friend said he told them he needed a place to stay due to marriage difficulties and he never mentioned the crash. She said he had been drinking and noticed his car wasn’t in the driveway.
She called her husband, who was headed home from work at the time. He came upon the crash scene and heard from police that a driver had fled the scene. He asked the officer who they were looking for and was told his name was “Dave.” He directed police to his house, where they took Hatfield into custody.