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Police say drunk driver fled the scene of fatal accident

A 42-year-old man has been charged with driving while impaired by alcohol and leaving the scene of an accident in connection with a fiery chain-reaction crash on California State Route 60 that claimed the life of a Whittier man on Jan. 9. County booking records reveal that the man's bail has been set at $760,000. He's scheduled to appear in Ponoma Superior Court on Feb. 4.

The four-vehicle accident took place in the westbound lanes of California State Route 60 near Crossroads Parkway in Industry at approximately 10 p.m. According to a police report, the man's Dodge van struck the rear of a Ford coupe because he failed to notice that traffic had slowed considerably. The force of the impact propelled the Ford into the rear of a Honda minivan, which then struck a Toyota sedan. The Ford and Toyota then caught fire. The man allegedly fled the scene on foot but was apprehended quickly.

The driver of the Ford was trapped in his burning vehicle and died from smoke inhalation, according to medical examiners. The man operating the Honda managed to escape from his vehicle, but he suffered serious burns to his face, arms and legs. He was transported by ambulance to a Los Angeles trauma center. The Toyota's occupants suffered minor injuries and declined medical treatment.

Attorneys with experience in DUI defense may study accident reports to determine whether or not felony drunk driving charges are warranted. In California, motorists can only be convicted of felony DUI if they committed a motor vehicle violation or drove in a negligent manner. Reducing a felony drunk driving charge to a misdemeanor could lead to lower penalties for the defendant.

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