Police: Alcohol and high speed killed ‘Jackass’ star

Skid marks remain at the scene of the crash in West Goshen Township. Dunn's car, a Porsche 911 GT3, veered off the Route 322 bypass near the Pottstown Pike exit.
Skid marks remain at the scene of the crash in West Goshen Township. Dunn's car, a Porsche 911 GT3, veered off the Route 322 bypass near the Pottstown Pike exit. (SARAH J. GLOVER / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 22, 2011

A lethal combination of alcohol and speeds up to 140 m.p.h. caused the fiery wreck that killed Jackass star Ryan Dunn and a passenger this week along a Chester County highway, police said.

According to toxicology results released Wednesday, the 34-year-old West Chester resident had a blood-alcohol level of 0.196 moments after the crash that killed him and Zachary Hartwell, 30.

That level of intoxication is nearly 21/2 times the state's 0.08 legal definition of drunken driving. Investigators found no traces of other drugs in Dunn's system.

The findings came amid a continued torrent of Internet interest in the case and as friends and family gathered under overcast skies for Dunn's viewing in West Chester.

"I hope all kids are listening and will learn a lesson from this," said April Margera, mother of Dunn's Jackass costar Brandon "Bam" Margera. "I hope something positive can come from this tragedy."

Outside the DellaVecchia, Reilly, Smith & Boyd Funeral Home on North Church Street, suit-clad mourners mingled with those sporting shorts, tattoos, and mohawks. But not all passersby joined in the somber mood.

"He is a jackass," Atef Friji, 23, said when he learned of Dunn's drunken driving. "You have to be smart about things."

Bam Margera, a West Chester native who appeared alongside Dunn in the Jackass show and movies, also attended, looking more composed than in a wrenching interview he gave to Fox29 at the crash site Tuesday.

"He was the smartest guy," he told the news station between sobs. "He had so much talent and so many things going for him. It's just not right."

Memorial services for Hartwell - a newlywed and Afghanistan war veteran who had also worked as a production assistant on the film Jackass Number Two - are scheduled for Saturday.

Relatives plan to hold a public memorial service for both men at a later date, according to Dunn's obituary.

Dunn posted a photo of himself and Hartwell drinking at a West Chester bar hours before Monday's wreck, leading many to suspect he may have been drunk when his car veered off the Route 322 bypass in West Goshen Township near the Pottstown Pike exit.

But employees at Barnaby's of America have repeatedly said the TV daredevil did not appear intoxicated before he left the bar.

The establishment reported the incident to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board earlier this week and has been cooperating with the investigation since, general manager Frank Herron said. Pennsylvania state police do not intend to file charges against Barnaby's, the Associated Press reported.

The impact of Monday's crash destroyed Dunn's 2007 Porsche 911 GT3, shattering it into several mangled and burned pieces hurled into a nearby embankment. Nearly 150 feet of skid marks and a makeshift memorial that continued to attract curiosity seekers were all that remained Wednesday.

Known for his love of fast cars, Dunn had racked up an extensive record of reckless driving on Southeastern Pennsylvania roads. Police cited him on charges of speeding, driving with a suspended license, or careless driving at least 23 times in the 13 years before his death.

A 2005 arrest on suspicion of DUI led to another yearlong license suspension, but the charge was withdrawn after Dunn completed a probationary program for first-time offenders. His license was valid at the time of Monday's crash, investigators said.

Dunn was quick to point out that he was not the most conscientious driver. He wrote in a now-prophetic-sounding 2009 column for Chester County Cuisine and Night Life:

"I drive like a bat out of hell. The human who . . . thinks that all lanes are created equal, can truly be run off the road in a fiery ball of flame."


Contact staff writer Jeremy Roebuck at 267-564-5218, jroebuck@phillynews.com, or @inqmontco on Twitter. Read his blog, "MontCo Memo," at www.philly.com/montcomemo

Inquirer staff writer Mari A. Schaefer contributed to this article.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|