Drunken driving, speeding alleged in deadly Itasca County crash

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 20, 2012 - 8:30 PM

A 71-year-old man has been charged with being drunk and speeding in his pickup truck when he struck and killed a mobility scooter operator who was making a U-turn ahead of him on a northern Minnesota road.

Lyle E. White, of Hibbing, Minn., was charged Monday in Itasca County District Court with two counts of criminal-vehicular homicide in the death of Eugene P. Zeroth, 78, of Princeton, Minn., shortly after noon on Sept. 29 in the Dora Lake area.

The criminal complaint also placed some of the responsibility on Zeroth for the crash on eastbound County Road 29. A state trooper's investigation determined that the crash was caused because Zeroth was making a U-turn "directly into the path" of the pickup, the complaint read.

However, the trooper's findings added that White's "perception and reaction time would have been improved" had he not been intoxicated at the time and driving nearly 20 miles per hour over the posted speed of 45 mph.

"Had White been sober and traveling the speed limit," the complaint continued, "there is a good chance that this crash would not have occurred."

White's blood-alcohol content, tested from a urine sample taken about 2 1/2 hours after the crash, measured 0.09 percent. That's slightly above the state's legal limit of 0.08 for driving.

White told investigators that he was driving closer to the speed limit after leaving his hunting shack and hit his brakes but did not see the scooter in time because he had been going over a hill, according to the complaint.

He added that he had four or five brandies with coffee about midnight the night before and another drink about 5 a.m., the complaint said.

White's driving history in Minnesota includes a drunken-driving conviction in 1993.

Zeroth was a 30-year veteran of Princeton's Public Works Department, retiring as its director in 1994. During his time with the city, he also served nine years with the Fire Department.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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