Drinking habit claims three lives

A tragic accident occurred on Saturday 16 kilometers outside of Kuressaare on the Kuressaare-Kuivastu highway in Saaremaa.

PHOTO: Irina Mägi

The police had already made a note of Andres (34) driving his Audi too fast. We do not know how many minutes later a patrol car would have pulled him over on Saturday. Andres was driving at least 138 kilometers an hour and was heavily intoxicated based on preliminary reports.

A tragic accident occurred on Saturday 16 kilometers outside of Kuressaare on the Kuressaare-Kuivastu highway in Saaremaa when Andres crashed into a Volvo driving ahead of him on the road. The horrific collision killed the Volvo’s 27-year-old driver, her eight-month-old baby and another female passenger (58). The young woman is survived by a partner and another small child.

Andres and his passenger, a 37-year-old woman, were airlifted to a Tallinn hospital after sustaining life-threatening injuries. The people in the Volvo were all related.

“Life is unfair. You just don’t believe it could happen to your loved ones,” a person standing close to the victims commented on social media.

Second patrol notified

Andres was clocked driving 138 kilometers per hour by a police patrol immediately before the accident occurred near the village of Masa between 2 and 3 in the afternoon. The speed limit is 90 kilometers per hour there.

People from the Tahula village near Kuressaare also reported having seen the Audi traveling at great speed.

The officers did all they could to stop the driver, but their van could not keep up with the speeding Audi and they lost sight of the vehicle before they could signal it to stop.

The patrol notified colleagues working on the same highway that the Audi was traveling toward them. Unfortunately, Andres caused the tragic crash before the second patrol car found him.

Medics who first arrived at the scene said that initial tests suggested Andres had a blood alcohol level of 3.7 parts permille. The figure is subject to change after an expert analysis.

An investigation must now determine how the accident happened.

Initial information suggests Andres started to overtake the Volvo when it was executing a left turn but crashed into the other vehicle. A double continuous line bans overtaking on that particular stretch of the road.

Both vehicles were thrown off the road as a result of the crash, with the left side of the Volvo severely deformed as a result of the impact. The front end of the Audi also suffered considerable damage.

The incident is being investigated based on the section of the Criminal Code on violating traffic and vehicle use requirements in a condition of intoxication or resulting in the death of two or more persons. The punishment is 3-12 years imprisonment.

Meeting that evening

A friend of Andres who wished to remain anonymous told Postimees that he cannot understand why his friend, who has a young daughter to raise, got behind the wheel while seriously drunk. The friend described Andres, also known as Jänx by his friends, as a goodhearted man. “Always willing to help,” they added.

Andres is a car mechanic by education and has driven trucks for a living for years. He is always on the road between Estonia and abroad. That is why the crash and its consequences took the friend by surprise. “We had an agreement to meet (on Saturday – ed.) that evening. But yeah… F**k all!” he said.

Several priors

This is not the first time Andres has had trouble with the law. It turns out he also escaped from the police on October 20, 2012, while driving a Mitsubishi under the influence of alcohol. During the ensuing chase, Andres reached a speed of 180 kilometers per hour. When the officers finally caught Andres, he was found to have a blood alcohol level of 1.13 parts permille. The court handed him a six-month conditional sentence with a probation period of 18 months. His driver’s license was suspended for four months. But that is not all.

Andres had to appear in court again in 2017. He had once again ignored a patrol car’s signal to stop on October 7. On the same road that saw the tragic crash on Saturday. When the patrol car gave pursuit, Andres floored the gas pedal. The court sent him to jail for 15 days and suspended his license for six months.

Postimees wrote last year that a typical drunk driver in Estonia is a man of 26-36 years of age, with 0.89 percent of all drivers found to be intoxicated behind the wheel in 2018.

Studies by the Ministry of Justice suggest Estonian roads have up to 4,000 drunk drivers every day. Comparing that figure to the number of drunk drivers caught on an average day, the depressing truth is that only 1-2 percent of people who drive while drunk get taken off the road.