Man charged in fatal DUI crash
Police said Christian S. James, 26, allegedly had a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit following the Sept. 24 crash on Route 7A. Jason T. Baumes, 30, of North Bennington was killed in the crash.
James pleaded not guilty in Vermont Superior Court Bennington Criminal Division on Monday to felony driving under the influence resulting in a fatality, and operating a vehicle above the legal limit resulting in a fatality.
Judge John W. Valente released James with conditions, including that he report to Manchester police daily and abide by a curfew at his Taconic Avenue residence from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., except for medical appointments.
The charges stem from an early morning crash on Sept. 24 in Manchester. First responders were dispatched to the 2300 block of Route 7A (Main Street) at about 2:13 a.m., according to an affidavit by Manchester police officer Jason Thomas.
James was traveling north when the 2014 Jeep Cherokee he was driving struck a southbound 2006 Honda CRV being driven by Baumes, according to the affidavit. The crash took place in the southbound lane. Both SUVs suffered heavy damage and both men had to be extricated from their vehicles.
Baumes was pronounced dead at the scene by members of the Manchester Rescue Squad. James was taken to Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington.
The speedometer of James' Jeep was "pinned" at 70 mph, which Thomas wrote indicated it was traveling "significantly" over the posted limit of 40 mph.
Police learned James had been at Mulligan's Pub & Restaurant in Manchester Center and drinking alcohol on the night of the crash: According to the affidavit, James had four tequila drinks and a beer while at Mulligans, leaving sometime after 1:30 a.m.
Police were granted a search warrant and obtained hospital records and blood samples from SVMC. According to the affidavit, a sample of James' blood drawn at the hospital an hour after the crash showed a BAC of .239. A sample was tested later by the Vermont Forensic Laboratory in Waterbury and showed the same concentration. The legal driving limit in Vermont is .08.
James does not have a criminal history, according to court records. He will return to court on Dec. 8.
Both felony charges carry a mandatory sentence of one year in prison with a maximum of 15 years, a fine up to $10,000, or both.
Reach staff writer Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111 or @edamon_banner.
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