A Fairfield man has been charged with five felonies in connection with a two-vehicle accident that killed three children and seriously injured two adults early Saturday morning on U.S. Highway 20 west of Timmerman Junction, in southern Blaine County.
According to the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office, deputies and first responders were dispatched to an area on Highway 20 about 5 miles west of Timmerman Junction around 1:19 a.m. for a report of a two-vehicle accident. The crash happened at the site of a temporary traffic signal for an Idaho Transportation Department bridge construction project just east of Hot Springs Landing.
Upon arrival, deputies found a white 1995 Dodge pickup, driven by Matthew Richard Park, 45, of Fairfield, in the road with extensive front-end damage, the Sheriff’s Office reported. The second vehicle, a Blue 2000 Dodge Neon, driven by Somchai Ray Lee Lurak, 26, of Mountain Home, had extensive rear-end damage. Also in Lurak’s vehicle were his fiancée, Emma Weigand, 26, of Mountain Home, and Lurak’s three daughters, ages 3, 5 and 6. All three children were in car seats.
The investigation by deputies determined that Lurak was driving west on Highway 20 and was stopped at the construction site light when Park, also traveling west, collided with the rear of the Dodge Neon in the westbound lane. Two of the children, the 5- and 6-year-olds, were pronounced dead at the scene, and the 3-year-old died later at St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Lurak and Weigand were also transported to St. Luke’s Wood River, and Weigand was later transferred to St. Alphonsus hospital in Boise for her injuries. Park, the driver of the Dodge pickup, appeared uninjured and declined medical assistance.
Deputies noticed at the scene that Park showed signs of intoxication, the Sheriff’s Office reported. He was given a field sobriety test and he provided breath samples for concentrations of alcohol. According to court records, his breath tests registered 0.191/0.189. The legal limit in Idaho is 0.08.
Park was charged with three felony counts of vehicular manslaughter, with a maximum sentence of 15 years per charge, and two felony aggravated DUIs, which also carry a maximum sentence of 15 years per charge. If convicted, Park could spend up to 75 years in prison.
Park appeared at an initial court appearance Monday in 5th District Court in Hailey via video conference from the Blaine County Detention Center. Judge Ted Israel issued a bond of $400,000 and ordered that if it is posted, Park will be required to wear a SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring system), which tests for alcohol levels through the skin. In addition, if Park is released from jail, he will be prohibited from consuming any alcohol or nonprescription drugs or from leaving Camas or Blaine counties.
Prosecutor Matt Fredback said in court that Park admitted to the authorities that he consumed a dozen beers between noon and 1 a.m., when the accident occurred. According to a probable-cause-for-arrest affidavit written by Blaine County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Mickey Henderson, Park told deputies that he remembered the traffic light being green, and did not see the brake lights of the Lurak’s car in front of him. He admitted that he was intoxicated and that “[i]f I was perfectly alert, I would have seen some resemblance of a silhouette of a car there and I didn’t, I did not see that.”
Park has one previous DUI conviction in Utah, in 2014.
According to Park’s public defender, Peggy Boggs, he is a self-employed carpenter and welder who has been living in Fairfield for the past 25 years.
As of Tuesday, both Lurak and Weigand were still at St. Alphonsus hospital in Boise. Lurak was in critical condition, defined as vital signs unstable and not within normal limits, and Weigand was in serious condition, meaning
vital signs may be unstable and the pa-tient is acutely ill, ac-cording to a hospital official. A GoFundMe account created the day after the fatal accident to raise funds for the funerals and medical expenses had raised nearly $25,000 as of Tuesday.
Park is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Aug. 20, at which time the prosecutor must present sufficient evidence for the case to be tried in District Court.