By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
A Mercer County magistrate forwarded a DUI with death case to the grand jury Thursday after hearing testimony about the New Year’s Day crash that took the life of a Bluefield man.
Kester Everett Lane III, 28, of Bramwell, appeared before Magistrate Rick Fowler for a preliminary hearing concerning charges of DUI with death and operating a motor vehicle without an approved vehicle alcohol test and lock system. Lane was driving a 2011 Chevrolet Malibu west on Bluefield Avenue when he collided head-on with a 1977 Monte Carlo driven by 50-year-old Michael D. Manns, 50, of Bluefield.
Manns was later pronounced dead at Bluefield Regional Medical Center. The crash occurred approximately 7:12 a.m. on Jan. 1.
Patrolman M.L. Ramsey of the Bluefield Police Department testified Thursday that Lane had a blood alcohol level of .20 at the time of the crash. A reading of .08 is the legal limit. When questioned by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney John McGinnis, Ramsey said that Lane, who had a prior arrest for DUI, was participating in an interlock program; drivers must blow into a device mounted in the car before they can start it. The device measures blood alcohol levels.
The Malibu that Lane was driving was not equipped with an interlock device, Ramsey said.
The vehicle crash was a drivers-side to drivers-side impact that spun both of them around, Ramsey stated. While testifying, Ramsey said he consulted with Cpl. D. Skala of the West Virginia State Police Turnpike detachment about the crash.
Attorney Mark Wills, who is representing Lane, objected to including Ramsey’s testimony what Skala said about the crash as hearsay. However, McGinnis then asked Ramsey if Skala was an expert in accident reconstruction. Ramsey said this was the case, and Fowler overruled the objection.
While being crossed examined by Wills, Ramsey testified that Lane had caused the crash when he crossed into the other lane. Ramsey also said that neither he nor any of the other officers at the scene took a statement for Lane. People at the scene said they had heard the crash, but did not see it firsthand.
When Wills asked about blood samples taken from Manns, Ramsey said tests showed that Manns had been intoxicated, too, with a .166 blood alcohol level. Manns had visited his girlfriend and was heading home when the crash happened.
After Ramsey was excused, McGinnis said the state was asking for a ruling of probable cause. Wills said he did not believe the state had met the burden of proof necessary for a probable cause ruling.
Fowler ruled that there was probable cause. The case will now go before the Mercer County Grand Jury. Lane remains free on bond.