Suspected drunk driver was ‘blacked out,’ friend says

On the scene of a three-vehicle crash in Vancouver Thursday night. One person died in the crash. April 11, 2013. (KOIN 6 News staff)
On the scene of a three-vehicle crash in Vancouver Thursday night. One person died in the crash. April 11, 2013. (KOIN 6 News staff)

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) -– A 20-year-old driver made his first court appearance on allegations that he drove drunk and killed a man in Vancouver last week.

Mark D. Gant is charged with vehicular homicide, assault, driving under the influence, reckless driving, minor in possession and three counts of hit-and-run.

On April 11, police said they responded to a three-vehicle crash at the intersection of East 33rd and P streets. The victim, 26-year-old Charlie Heroux, was pronounced dead at the scene by firefighters.

Vancouver police said Gant’s Honda sedan was likely headed southbound on P Street when it crashed into Heroux’s GMC truck, which was traveling east on 33rd Street. The front of Heroux’s truck had extensive damage, court documents revealed. Gant’s Honda also had widespread damage to the driver and passenger side.

A Chevrolet S10 pickup truck that was traveling north on P Street was also struck. The driver and a passenger were transported to a nearby hospital, where they were treated and released.

A witness told police Gant got out of his vehicle moments after the crash and started walking westbound on 33rd Street. The witness told Gant “to turn around and go back to the scene of the collision,” court documents read. The witness said that he stayed with Gant, who sat on a sidewalk, until police arrived.

A separate witness told police that moments after hearing the crash, he raced outside and talked to Gant. The man told police that Gant was conscious and alert, but his passenger, Brian Endecott, was not, and was making choking sounds, records state. Endecott was trapped inside the Honda and needed to be extricated from the vehicle, firefighters said.

Officers found Gant with several small cuts and blood on his clothing. His breath smelled of alcohol, and his eyes were bloodshot and watery. His speech was slurred and repetitive, the documents sate.

Gant told police that he had “consumed three shots of alcoholic beverage prior to driving. Paramedics took Gant to the hospital because he was complaining about pain in his arms and hips. A preliminary breath test taken by Gant at the hospital found his blood-alcohol level at .201. The legal limit to drive in Oregon is .08.

Meanwhile, occupants of the Chevrolet S10 estimated Gant’s vehicle was traveling 80 miles per hour as it was approaching 33rd Street, documents reveal.

More than a half dozen people showed up in Clark County Court for Gant’s first appearance before a judge. His mother briefly spoke with KOIN as she left the courtroom.

“He’s not the terrible person as you guys are making him out to be,” she said.

When asked, she refused to give her name, but Wanda Miller, Gant’s grandmother, confirmed the relationship.

“It was probably too much for her,” Miller said.

Miller said Gant was getting his life back on track after struggling with alcohol.

“He was doing everything… because he’s got a newborn son,” Miller said.

A friend who attended the hearing, and only identified herself as Darlene, said Gant has returned to college and recently got a job building homes with a non-profit organization.

“It was a mistake,” Darlene said. “He was blacked out, and he made the biggest mistake of his life,” she said.

Gant will be back in court April 26.

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