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Chicago medic charged with DUI after on-duty crash

The medic was three times over the legal limit for alcohol when he ran a red light and crashed into a pickup truck

Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — Police say a suburban ambulance driver was three times over the legal limit for alcohol when he ran a red light, his emergency lights and sirens on, and crashed into a pickup truck in the Sheridan Park neighborhood on the North Side.

John P. Lara, 31, has been charged with aggravated driving under the influence causing an accident resulting in bodily harm, disobeying red light, failing to reduce speed, negligent driving, and failing to carry or display a driver's license, according to authorities.

Lara was traveling south on Clark Street in a Care 1 ambulance around 10:45 a.m. Monday when he hit the truck going west on Montrose, according to the police report. Responding officers approached the ambulance and found Lara still behind the wheel and the engire running, the report said.

One of the officers smelled a “very strong odor of alcoholic beverage,’’ and noticed that his eyes were glassy and his speech slurred, the report said.

When the officer asked what happened, Lara said he was on his way to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center to pick up a patient, according to the report. When they asked him where his partner was, he told them he was alone in the ambulance and was going to pick up his partner at the hospital, the report said.

But when Chicago Fire Department paramedics were treating him, Lara was “unable to explain where he was going or why he was using his emergency equipment when there wasn’t a patient in the ambulance,’’ the report said. One paramedic told officers the driver “repeatedly covered his mouth in an apparent attempt to hide the strong odor of alcoholic beverage,’’ the report said.

The paramedic told police said the ambulance driver became “very uncooperative’’ and belligerent with her. Lara was taken into custody and treated at Illinois Masonic, where his blood alcohol level was found to be .271, more than three times the legal limit for driving, .08, the report said.

Evanston chiropractor Nick Mendez said he was headed to his Lakeview home to walk his dog while on a break from work when he saw the ambulance in front of him as they were both headed south on Clark Street approaching Montrose Avenue.

“He was full lights and sirens,’’ Mendez said. “He came up to the intersection with cars that were westbound and eastbound continuously on Montrose. I just watched and the ambulance didn’t slow down at all. It was as if he had a death wish.’’

Mendez said the ambulance hit the passenger side of the pickup truck. “I pulled around and I kind of aided the victim out of the pickup truck. He was kind of going in and out of consciousness. He was able to walk and I just helped him in my car, where we warmed up,’’ Mendez said.

The man, who was 43 and appeared to be a construction worker driving a company vehicle, told Mendez he felt as if he was going to pass out.

“He thanked me, oh absolutely,’’ Mendez said. “We sat in my car for a little bit and spoke. He asked me, ‘What happened? What happened?’ ’’

When Mendez told him an ambulance hit him, the man said, “It seems like it came out of nowhere,’’ Mendez said.

Mendez called 911 and the dispatcher told him help was already on the way. Paramedics arrived and began treating the truck driver and talking to the ambulance driver.

Joseph Baron, director of Care 1 Ambulance in Arlington Heights, said it was “too early” in the investigation to comment. “It’s premature...I haven’t seen the police report yet,’’ he said.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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