Driver convicted after ether claim derided
John Lagerwey of Portland, Oregon, was convicted last week of three counts of vehicular assault with aggravating circumstances stemming from his role in a spectacular car crash at the Peace Arch border crossing last May 17.
Drunk at the time with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit, Lagerwey was northbound on I-5 at over 70 m.p.h. and failed to slow down when approaching the border, slamming into a Subaru Outback that was stopped for a border inspection. One of the four passengers, 60-year-old Koon Kwan of Vancouver, was unconscious for two months after the accident, according to his son-in-law, Dr. Leo Wong of Langley, B.C. Kwan’s sister, brother-in-law and niece sustained minor injuries.
Lagerwey, 59, claimed through his attorney Steve Childress that he’d been unwittingly impaired by fumes leaking from canisters of ether he was carrying in his van, an argument ridiculed by Whatcom County Prosecutor Dave McEachran as scientifically impossible.
The standard sentence for vehicular assault is from 15 to 20 months, but the aggravating circumstances – one victim severely injured and an unusually high blood alcohol level – allow the judge to more than double the penalties. At press time a sentencing date had not yet been set.