SUV Full of Novato Teens Crashes; Driver, 17, Faces DUI Charges

Two kids require hospitalization after wreck in west Novato.


A 17-year-old Novato boy who admitted to taking shots of alcohol and smoking marijuana faces a three felony charges following a wreck in a western Novato neighborhood early Tuesday morning, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The boy was driving with five passengers southbound on Sutro Avenue between 60 and 80 mph — in a 25 mph residential zone — when he came to the dead end at Vineyard Road and could not stop, Officer Eric Hohmeister said. The boy's 2007 Mitsubishi Endeavor crashed through a fire hydrant and a tree before coming to rest in a creekbed, he said.

Most of the occupants — three boys and three girls, all 17 and all from Novato — had various injuries. A girl in the back seat was most seriously injured, with a broken jaw, cuts and dislodged teeth, Hohmeister said. She and another girl, who complained of hip pain, were transported to Novato Community Hospital by paramedics from the Novato Fire District. A boy who was in the front passenger seat suffered cuts, one of which required sutures to close up.

CHP investigators said the boy admitted to having smoked marijuana just prior to getting behind the wheel. He also said he had taken two shots of an alcoholic drink but did not specify to the investigator what it was, Hohmeister said.

The boy, whose name will not be released because he is a minor, faces two charges of felony DUI causing great bodily harm and one of felony reckless driving. He was in violation of laws that state a driver cannot be on the road between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. during his first year after obtaining a license and that he is only allowed to drive with a parent or licensed driver over the age of 25 during the first year.

Hohmeister said airbags deployed in the front two seats. The three back seat riders were wearing seatbelts but holding onto one girl who was not belted. The SUV did not roll but "ping-ponged" off the hyrdrant, a tree and a power pole, he said.

One of the investigators said he was surprised that the injuries were as minor as they were, Hohmeister said.

The car was coming from Nicasio and heading to Novato, Hohmeister
said. He did not know where the driver allegedly drank the alcohol.

The Marin CHP office made 11 DUI arrests since last weekend, Hohmeister added. "Always designate a sober driver," he said.

— Bay City News Service contributed to this story.


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