Police: Driver admitted to huffing air duster prior to crash
Published 9:50 am Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Police say a two car, head-on collision Saturday afternoon sent three people to a local hospital. Authorities say the accident may have been caused by one of the drivers huffing canned air duster just prior to the crash.
The crash happened around 12:45 p.m. on West Elk Avenue in front of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post and Cline-Holder Electric.
Witnesses told police a blue Ford Focus travelling west on the busy city road crossed over the center line and struck an east-bound Ford Windstar mini-van.
Police identified the driver of the Focus as 22-year-old Zachary Michalski, of Elizabethton, and the driver of the Windstar as 48-year-old Irene Vines, of Johnson City.
Both Michalski and Vines had to be extricated from the vehicles. They were both transported to the Johnson City Medical Center along with a female passenger from the mini-van, identified as 67-year-old Shirley Carver.
Carver was treated and later released from the hospital. On Monday afternoon, both Michalski and Vines were still listed as patients at the Johnson City Medical Center.
Elizabethton Police Department Cpl. Doug Combs said it is not yet known why the driver of the Focus crossed into oncoming traffic.
“Impairment may be a factor, we are still looking into that,” Combs said.
While Combs was investigating the crash, he found a can of Ultra Duster, a brand of canned duster air, lying in the road next to Michalski’s car.
“The can was almost empty and was cold to the touch,” Combs said.
Due to the discovery of the can of air duster and the seriousness of the injuries, Combs said he asked Michalski to submit to a blood test while he was at the hospital being treated and Michalski agreed to submit a blood sample for the test.
“When asked, Mr. Michalski admitted to consuming air duster prior to the collision,” Combs said, adding the investigation into the crash is ongoing and charges are pending.
Combs spoke to Michalski and Vines regarding what they remembered of the crash.
Vines told Combs she saw the Ford Focus cross over the turning lane and into her lane of travel but she could not avoid the collision due to other vehicles being around her. Michalski told Combs he remembered driving west on West Elk Avenue but he did not remember the accident.
Traffic was backed up in both directions on West Elk Avenue due to the accident. Both eastbound lanes of travel were shut down for about 2 hours as emergency crews worked to clear the scene. Eastbound traffic was detoured onto West G Street, which created traffic congestion on that street. Westbound traffic was limited to one lane around the crash site.