UPDATE, MAY 31, 6:39 P.M.: The Irvine Police Department this evening released the booking photo at right of Austin Jeffrey Farley, the alleged drunken driver with a past DUI conviction blamed for causing the crash that killed 14-year-old Ashton Sweet.
The Northwood High School freshman cheerleader and three other girls were being driven home from a birthday party by a passenger's father around 1 a.m. Saturday when their E-Class Mercedes was struck on the left side by a pickup truck in the Culver Drive and Irvine Boulevard intersection. Farley, 26, was later identified as the truck driver, arrested and held in lieu of $1 million bail.
UPDATE, MAY 31, 3:45 P.M.: Sad but expected news from the Irvine Police Department:
This afternoon, Irvine Police Traffic Investigators were informed by the Orange County Sheriff /Coroner's Office that Ashton Sweet was declared deceased. As previously reported, Ashton's parents had made the determination to allow for organ donation.
. . .
The arrestee in this case, Austin Farley, remains in-custody pending his arraignment. Farley's bail has been set at one million dollars.
UPDATE, MAY 31, 2:37 P.M.: As more grief counselors were dispatched to Northwood High School in Irvine to help students cope with the loss of a 14-year-old to a driver charged with DUI, word comes that an Orange County state legislator crossed party lines to support a Democrat's bill to regulate sobriety checkpoints.
Assemblyman Chris Norby (R-Fullerton) says he voted for AB1389 because checkpoints are "fishing expeditions" for unlicensed drivers.
Norby also complained that cities often make money from the operations by impounding vehicles that often belong to illegal immigrants who can't get licenses and end up stranded.
The legislation introduced by Assemblyman Michael Allen (D-Santa Rosa) passed 51-19 on Friday. If it is ultimately signed by the governor, it would confine checkpoints to streets where drunken driving is a problem.
UPDATE, MAY 31, 9:20 A.M.: The countywide effort to keep drunken drivers off the road Memorial Day weekend resulted in at least 45 arrests by 38 law enforcement agencies. That compares with 41 DUI arrests the previous year--and not all 2011 results are in yet.
But all the DUI enforcement in the world did not spare the life of 14-year-old Ashton Sweet of Irvine.
The Northwood High School freshman cheerleader and three other girls were being driven home from a birthday party by one of the passenger's father around 1 a.m. Saturday when the E-Class Mercedes they were in was struck on the left side by a pickup truck in the Culver Drive and Irvine Boulevard intersection.
The father, Michael Ghaemi, 48, and the girls in the Mercedes were all injured. The most seriously injured were Sweet, who suffered an irreversible brain injury that had her on life support, and Krista Merassa, 15, who was listed in critical condition.
Informed by doctors that they would be unable to bring Sweet back, her family decided Sunday night to sustain her on a breathing machine so her organs could be evaluated for donation, according to an Irvine Police Department statement.
Sunday morning, police arrested Austin Jeffrey Farley, the 26-year-old driver of the pickup. He was held in lieu of $1 million bail on charges of suspected driving under the influence. In June 2009, Farley pleaded guilty to DUI, battery on a police officer and driving with a suspended license.
A celebration of Sweet's life is scheduled today at Northwood High.
ORIGINAL POST, MAY 27, 7:42 A.M.: The Anaheim Police Department Traffic Bureau is letting you ring in the long holiday weekend--with a sobriety checkpoint on west Ball Road between Gilbert and Magnolia avenues from 8 tonight to 2:30 a.m. Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD)-administered "Avoid the 38" task force from 6 tonight through midnight Monday have DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols running countywide.
"The Avoid the 38 DUI Task Force will have a zero tolerance policy in effect during the enforcement period," Sgt. Mark Daigle of the OCSD Traffic Bureau says in a statement. "If you are caught driving while impaired, you will be arrested and taken to jail. The impact a DUI arrest can have on a driver, as well as their family, is devastating. Think twice before getting behind the wheel and driving impaired."
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Besides Anaheim, checkpoints where officers will look for boozehounds behind the wheel and unlicensed drivers will be held tonight in La Habra and Rancho Santa Margarita. Special DUI saturation patrols blanket Anaheim and La Habra tonight as well.
Buena Park holds a DUI checkpoint Saturday night, while Seal Beach runs one Sunday night.
Saturation patrols are also planned over the long weekend in Brea, Buena Park, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Los Alamitos, Newport Beach, Placentia, Santa Ana, the campus of UC Irvine and OCSD contract cities.
The California Highway Patrol will also make a show of force on freeways and county roads within the agency's jurisdiction.