Truck driver involved in I-10 hazmat spill was intoxicated during crash, report finds

Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 10:36 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - There are new details on the deadly crash and chemical spill that closed I-10 and spurred evacuations back in February. The autopsy report on the truck driver, 54-year-old Rick Immel of Nevada has been released.

According to the report from the Pima County Medical Examiner, Immel was intoxicated. His blood alcohol level was significantly above the legal limit. When it comes to the cause of his death, there were several factors.

″There was some blunt force injuries. There was kind of a slightly upside-down body position belted in the vehicle. He had some underlying medical problems that contributed. We’re not sure how much of the actual gas he breathed in and he was intoxicated,” Dr. Greg Hess explained.

Dr. Hess said there wasn’t just one catastrophic injury or medical event that contributed to Immel’s death. Dr. Hess said the level of impairment from consuming alcohol depends on the person, but it may be part of what caused the crash that ended Immel’s life.

″Certainly alcohol in general is a depressant. So, it can make people sleepy, it could slow your response time, and affect people in multiple other ways,” he said. ″The upper legal limit theoretically for driving is .08% blood alcohol level. The decedent had .312, which is about 4 times the legal limit,” Dr. Hess said.

In Arizona, the legal limit for a commercial driver is .04, according to DPS. Immel was close to eight times over that limit. In the toxicology report, it says there was also the presence of chlordiazepoxide.

The drug is used to treat anxiety and has a variety of other purposes. Dr. Hess believes the combination of that drug and the alcohol consumed did not contribute to Immel’s death.

″The level is low and at least in my opinion, I don’t think it contributed to anything,” Dr. Hess said.

Arizona DPS is still investigating and is expected to release its own report.