JUST IN: Driver had alcohol, cocaine in system during fatal Lake Worth crash


Jose Alvarez Rodriguez had alcohol and cocaine in his system when he crashed his car last May on Interstate 95, killing his passenger and injuring a Florida Highway Patrol trooper, recently released court documents show. 

Alvarez Rodriguez, 27, was arrested Wednesday on DUI manslaughter and property-damage charges in that May 19, 2017, crash north of Sixth Avenue South.

Judge Dina Keever-Agrama set his bail at $35,000 Thursday morning during a hearing at the Palm Beach County Jail.

The Lake Worth man lost control of a 2017 Chevrolet Camaro shortly before 3:15 that morning, FHP authorities said. The car flipped sideways and struck a Road Ranger vehicle parked in the median. The Camaro was moving northbound at least 30 mph at the time of the crash, investigators determined.

The Road Ranger then crashed forward into an FHP car, injuring a trooper. Both vehicles had their emergency lights on, according to an FHP report. The Road Ranger driver, 54-year-old Joseph Polynice, was not hurt in the crash.

State troopers, including Cedric Mitchell who sustained minor injuries in the wreck, cut the seat belt off Alvarez Rodriguez and laid him on the ground. He began to cough up blood. A trooper noticed the smell of alcohol on his breath, records state. 

Crews tried to reach Gretel Mendez-Vega, 22, in the front passenger seat, but she was pinned inside. A trooper tried to find the West Palm Beach woman’s pulse but couldn’t. She died at the scene. 

Authorities took Alvarez Rodriguez to St. Mary’s Medical Center in win critical condition. They requested that the medical staff at the West Palm Beach hospital take blood samples from Alvarez Rodriguez, which they did, about two hours after the wreck.

At least one of the blood sample test results indicate his blood-alcohol level was above the legal threshold of .08.  

The samples also tested positive for cocaine. 

Records indicate he caused about $34,000 worth of damage in the crash.

Staff writer Julius Whigham II contributed to this story.



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