Cops: Driver in crash that killed officer smelled of alcohol, had can of beer in vehicle

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LIGONIER, Pennsylvania — The driver of a van involved in a head-on crash that killed a police lieutenant had alcohol on his breath at the crash scene and a beer can inside the van, a search warrant released Monday says.

Clair Fink III was driving his employer's van early May 5 when he went against traffic on U.S. Route 30, authorities said. Ligonier Township Lt. Eric Eslary was killed when his SUV was hit by the wrong-way van.

At least four emergency workers said in an affidavit of probable cause that they smelled a strong odor of alcohol on Fink's breath.

Trooper Brian Sachs said he saw an empty 16-ounce Natural Ice beer can in the middle of the left eastbound lane at the accident scene and an identical beer can in the center console of the van, court documents show.

Derek Gifford told police he and Fink finished most of an 18-pack of beer before the crash.

"We'd only been traveling in the wrong lane for maybe a minute or two," Gifford told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It was dark. I didn't even realize that we were in the wrong lane. But I wasn't paying attention to the road. I was on my phone."

Gifford told Fink at least twice that he was not in his lane, Sachs wrote in the affidavit.

Trooper Steve Limani told the Pittsburgh Tribune the blood-alcohol analysis could take several weeks to finish.

Fink is being treated for serious injuries. Attempts to reach Fink and relatives to speak for him were unsuccessful.

No charges have been filed.

The township's police dog was seriously injured in the crash, but officials said Monday it was doing well and was moved to a veterinary facility. The dog will probably return to full health, but police have not decided whether to retire it.

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