Within a 54-minute period just after midnight Saturday, five people were arrested for driving under the influence in proximity to the construction area on Highway 20.
“I’ve seen four before in my career but never five,” said California Highway Patrol Officer Justin Barnthouse.
The rash of drunk driving arrests began at about 12:45 a.m. when Peter Mazon, 62, of Grass Valley, was driving a 1995 Honda sedan westbound on Highway 20 at an extremely high rate of speed and approached an area where roadwork was being performed, west of Gold Flat Road, according to a CHP news release.
Due to the repaving project, all traffic lanes were closed except for one on the far left of the roadway. According to the press release, the other vehicles in the lane were moving slowly through the construction area.
Mazon entered the open lane at a high rate of speed and struck the rear of a Buick sedan travelling in front of him, being driven by Joshua Tygart, 19, of Grass Valley.
Mazon then veered into the closed lane and struck a CAT pavement roller being operated by Robert Shogren, 56, an employee of Teichert Construction.
Mazon had to be extricated from the Honda; he suffered injuries to the abdomen and was transported via helicopter to Sutter Roseville Medical Center.
No other injuries were reported, Barnthouse said.
Alcohol was determined to be a factor in the collision, and Mazon was arrested on suspicion of DUI, then released for treatment. He remains in serious condition, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
While CHP officers were responding to the accident, the four other incidents occurred.
Christian Naegele, 27, of Meadow Vista, swerved a 2004 Subaru Outback into the center divider before reaching the scene of the collision. After the vehicle came to a stop, the female right-front passenger fled the vehicle, scampered across the highway and fled into the woods where she reportedly passed out due to being under the influence of a controlled substance.
Naegele demonstrated signs of intoxication and was arrested for DUI. He was booked and released on $1,507.25 bail.
Anna Marie Koenig, 48, of Oakland, Brittney Berdak, 24, of Grass Valley, and Cory Vankol, 24, of Auburn, were also arrested for DUIs, Barnthouse said.
Koenig and Vankol were arrested after driving erratically after entering the construction site, booked on suspicion of driving under the influence and released on $1,507.25 bail.
Berdak was arrested after driving through the barricade blocking the Gold Flat Road on-ramp, according to the CHP release.
She drove on the freshly paved asphalt and nearly struck CHP officers while they continued to process the other incidents.
Berdak was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, booked and released on $1,507.25 bail.
“We need to educate people to designate a driver, but obviously people are willing to risk driving under the influence,” Barnthouse said.
The officer, who began his career in Los Angeles, said the problem is not unique to western Nevada County.
“This problem exists in every community,” he said.
The problem is magnified when a small town has five accidents occur at its major thoroughfare, Barnthouse said.
“It impacted a lot of people,” he said.
It is estimated that after midnight on the weekend, two out of five vehicles on the road are being operated by an impaired individual, Barnthouse said.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email email@example.com or 530-477-4239.