Tennessee man accused of DUI in ‘wild’ hit-and-run spree on Route 30 in Hempfield
A Tennessee man was behind bars Friday after allegedly causing a wild hit-and-run spree on a heavily-traveled section of Route 30 in Hempfield a night earlier, injuring two people, according to state police.
“It was an epic meltdown that led to a very dangerous situation,” witness Ryan Read told the Tribune-Review.
William Lee Grabel, 51, did not have a valid driver’s license and told troopers he injected methamphetamine just before getting behind the wheel Thursday evening, according to court papers.
Grabel — who is from LaFollette, about 45 minutes north of Knoxville in eastern Tennessee — was arraigned Friday on numerous charges, including driving under the influence, reckless endangerment and accidents involving injury. He was being held on $100,000 bail at the Westmoreland County Prison.
State police said six drivers and passengers in five vehicles were involved in three crash scenes around 7 p.m. near Westmoreland Mall along Route 30 at East Pittsburgh Street, Eastgate Plaza and the exit ramp at Humphrey Road.
Read, of Youngwood, said he saw much of the incident while he and his wife were eastbound on Route 30 near Gander Outdoors on their way to Sendell Motors. They noticed a commotion up ahead near the Route 130 exit as a tan Ford Taurus backed up into other cars and took off on the divided highway.
There were a few damaged vehicles at the exit, he said. Past Westmoreland Mall, they noticed more cars that looked like they had been sideswiped.
The Taurus, which by now was “smoking really bad,” turned around to go westbound, crossed the median and started driving the wrong way in the eastbound lanes, Read said.
“When he was heading west down the eastbound lane, he was just on the other side of the (Georges Station Road) intersection from us,” he said. “As I’m watching this, I’m thinking, ‘There’s something clearly not right with this person.’ ”
Police reported that several witnesses said Grabel drove the wrong way before crashing into an embankment at a ramp to Route 30 from Humphrey Road. Police said he took off on foot but was apprehended by two troopers.
“It was pretty wild,” Read said. “It was more of a rampage on 30. He came down the wrong side of 30 twice, hitting cars up and down, and drove into Red Lobster’s grass area and shot down over the hill. … It was disgusting to watch that guy terrorize 30.”
Grable told troopers he had just injected methamphetamine. Troopers reported that he appeared to be intoxicated and seized bottles of Smirnoff Ice and a syringe from the car.
He could not walk or keep his balance without help, Trooper Steven Papuga reported.
A July 23 preliminary hearing is set.