Sunday, September 4, 2011

Driver who flagged down intoxicated coach prepared for worst

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The man who coaxed a high school girls golf coach to pull over an SUV transporting teenagers this week still shivers.

The driver, Fairfield High School coach and middle school teacher Susie Steinbeck, was arrested Tuesday and charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated and child endangerment.

West Des Moines attorney Steve Lombardi tailed the vehicle — which he said repeatedly swerved into the opposing lane for nearly 10 miles — nervously bracing for the worst.

Each time the SUV neared the crest of a hill or a blind corner, Lombardi cringed.

"I was just waiting for them to hit someone head-on," Lombardi said Thursday. "I'd hold my breath with every passing vehicle, muttering 'Come on, make it, make it.'

"After the first one, I started rehearsing the 9-1-1 call in my head that I would have to make. I had a hard time sleeping the last couple of nights."

Lee County court records allege Steinbeck registered a blood-alcohol level of .212 — more than a two and half times Iowa's legal limit — during a preliminary test at the scene. Her initial court appearance is set for May 20.

Fairfield superintendent Don Achelpohl issued a news release Thursday, stating Steinbeck has been placed on administrative leave. Achelpohl declined additional comment Thursday.

Steinbeck has not returned calls seeking comment to the Des Moines Register.

Sgt. Rob Borelli of the Iowa State Patrol confirmed Lombardi was on the scene when the Patrol arrived.

Lombardi said he was traveling across southeast Iowa on Tuesday when he made contact with the SUV around 7:30 a.m. on state Highway 16. He said the vehicle driven by Steinbeck swerved off the hard surface, kicking up dust.

"I thought, 'Well, another person on a cellphone,' " he said.

Lombardi, who was in the area as he went to check on property he owns in Quincy, Ill., soon decided something even more concerning might be a factor.

"When she came back on the road, she overreacted and was on the other side of the center line. It seemed really wreckless to me," he said. "It wasn't like somebody was just a distracted driver. There was obviously something wrong with the driver."

Honking at the vehicle headed to the conference meet in Keokuk failed to draw Steinbeck's attention, Lombardi said.

Team members in the SUV heard and reacted, however.

"The girls looked agitated," he said.

Daryn Hamilton, the father of golf team member and passenger Elizabeth Hamilton, told the Register on Wednesday that his daughter texted him less than 10 minutes into the 50- to 60-mile drive that was scheduled to depart from Fairfield around 7:10 a.m.

Hamilton said his daughter's first text read: "Ohh myy gosh susie is going to kill us! She cant stay on the road! So in case this is the last time i talk to you i love you! :)"

Lombardi said the SUV stopped at the intersection of Iowa Highway 16 and U.S. Highway 218 when he was able to maneuver his vehicle next to it.

"I motioned to the kids to put the window down. Then I went into cross examination mode and grilled the lady," said Lombardi, who has practiced law for 30 years. " 'Have you been drinking?' She said no. 'Are you taking any medication?' She said no. 'Do you have any medical conditions?' She said no.

"I told her, 'You need to pull this car over and put it in park right now.' "

Shortly after, a state trooper arrived.

Lombardi said Steinbeck provided short, clipped answers to his questions. One thing stood out, though.

"The other thing: The lady kept smiling at me," he said. "But this was serious. She just kept smiling at me."


Powered By | Full Text RSS Feed | Amazon Plugin | Settlement Statement | WordPress Tutorials

View the original article here


Post a Comment