By Jamie Leary
DENVER (CBS4) – A 62-year-old Denver man is in critical condition after being struck by a suspected drunk driver Wednesday night.
The victim was struck just before 7 p.m. in front of the Summit Ridge apartments off of East Quincy Avenue. A neighbor told CBS4 he saw paramedics preforming CPR on the man before he was rushed to the hospital.
The suspect, Gaele Lopez, 35, was taken into custody after arresting documents say he performed “unsatisfactorily” on a field sobriety test and showed clear signs of impairment. The arresting officer noted that he was swaying and stumbling and that his breath smelled of alcohol.
Lopez has been charged with drinking and driving in the past. Records indicate he has a DUI conviction out of Larimer County from September of 2003.
Every year around the holidays law enforcement is painfully aware of the increased risk for preventable drunk driving incidents. This year, the Colorado Department of Transportation poured millions into DUI enforcement and accident prevention programs. CDOT also funds extra patrols during certain times of the year.
“A lot of the alcohol-related fatalities tend to take place during holiday periods — everything from Super Bowl weekend to Labor Day weekend to Christmastime. So it’s important to push out funding to the law enforcement agencies so they can actually get more troopers and more enforcement on our roadways to be able to protect us,” said Sam Cole, CDOT Safety Communications Manager.
Cole says while DUI-related fatalities have decreased significantly since the 1980s, the numbers are slowly increasing.
“Back in the 1980s we definitely saw alcohol-related fatalities well over 400 (per year). Today in Colorado we are seeing about 1/3 of our fatalities in Colorado or about 160 or 170 per year related to alcohol,” Cole said. “Unfortunately this year we are a little bit higher than we were last year. Last year we were at about 181 alcohol-related fatalities for the whole year, right now, I just checked — we’re at 182 — so we’ve already gone beyond last years, so we will be up probably about 5 percent this year.”
As far as Lopez is concerned, he has yet to be formally charged. The investigation is ongoing and Denver police are still waiting for toxicology results.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the victim’s family.