Police: Sergeant legally drunk after fatal crash
December 5, 2003
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — A U.S. Army soldier was legally drunk six hours after allegedly being involved in a fatal hit-and-run crash early Friday morning, South Korean police said Wednesday.
Sgt. Jerry Onken of 143rd Air Defense Artillery at Suwon Air Base remains in U.S. military custody, charged with fleeing the scene of a fatal accident, 8th Army spokesman Lt. Col. Steve Boylan said.
Onken will be made available to South Korean investigators for possible charges.
A blood test showed Onken had a blood-alcohol level of 0.06 — above South Korea’s 0.05 legal limit, Sgt. So Yong-sok of Hwaseong Police Station said Wednesday. The blood was drawn around 6:45 a.m., more than six hours after the 12:10 a.m. crash.
U.S. and South Korean authorities conducted independent tests of the sample and had the same result, So said.
Boylan said Wednesday he could not confirm the information because the case remains under investigation.
The military charge stems from a crash in which Onken’s Hyundai Sonata allegedly struck a compact car near Suwon exit of Highway 1, killing 22-year-old Ki Kyong-sun. A passenger in the car was seriously injured and three others were treated at a local hospital.
Four of the five victims’ families have accepted “solatia” money from the U.S. military to help with crash-related expenses, Boylan said.
One family refused payment.
South Korean authorities have primary jurisdiction in the case because Onken was off-duty and driving a personal vehicle at the time of the crash.
Korean police questioned Onken last Friday; his case was referred Monday to Suwon prosecutors for official charges, So said.
In a written statement provided by the base, Onken allegedly admitted drinking and said he fled the scene because he was scared, So said. The statement said Onken remembered a green light when he went through the intersection.
The sergeant’s name, Onken, was misspelled last week when it was released as “Olken,” the 8th Army said.