District Justice Walter J. Gadzicki, presiding at the two-hour preliminary hearing, ordered Louis J. Blea, 35, of the 400 block of Vanderslice Street, to stand trial in Montgomery County Court on charges that include aggravated assault by a vehicle while driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, recklessly endangering others, drug possession, speeding and driving recklessly, driving with a suspended driver's license and being a habitual driving-under-the-influence offender.
Gadzicki, who expressed concern about the public's safety because Blea "has the longest, worst driving record of anyone I've seen," increased Blea's $25,000 bail to $75,000, according to Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Shark.
Shark, who had requested the higher bail, said Blea was taken to the county prison in lieu of posting bail but that she has been advised that, as in the case of the earlier $25,000 bail that was set on Jan. 21 when he was arrested, Blea's girlfriend intends to post the bail on his behalf.
The accident took place at about 9:20 a.m. Aug. 9 in the eastbound lanes of Route 422, about a half mile west of the Route 29 interchange in Upper Providence.
Witnesses told police Blea, driving a red Chevrolet Camaro, was traveling west at a high rate of speed estimated by them to be anywhere between 80 miles an hour to 100-plus miles an hour, according to the criminal complaint.
Blea was driving past slower vehicles in both the left and right westbound lanes when, going right to pass a van in the left lane, the Camaro left the road but fish-tailed back onto the highway, the criminal complaint said. Blea, whose driver's license had been suspended for prior driving under the influence convictions, subsequently lost control of the Camaro that then traveled through the grass median separating the two westbound and two eastbound lanes of the highway, according to the complaint.
The Camaro crashed into an eastbound 1986 Chevrolet Blazer, which was driven by Pottstown resident John Bateman and included his two youngest daughters as passengers, the complaint said. The Camaro struck a second car before coming to a stop while two other eastbound vehicles were involved in the accident when their drivers attempted to avoid the accident or the flying debris from the accident, according to the complaint.
Toxicology reports, returned in September, indicated a variety of drugs, including marijuana and morphine as well as alcohol, were in his system at the time of the accident, the complaint said.
Based on the concentration and type of substances found, a forensic toxicologist told authorities Blea would "be impaired to and beyond the point of rendering him unfit to operate a motor vehicle safely," the complaint said.