Wrong-way driver in Hobe Sound crash that killed teen, himself had blood-alcohol 3 times legal limit

HOBE SOUND, Fla. — A man who drove the wrong way on U.S. 1 in June and slammed into a pickup truck in a crash that killed him and the teen pickup driver, had a blood-alcohol content greater than three times the legal limit, according to a report obtained Wednesday.

David Whelan, 58, of Palm Beach Shores in Palm Beach County, was driving a 2003 Chevrolet south in the northbound lanes about 9:25 p.m. June 23 when he crashed into a northbound pickup driven by Jessica Smith, a 16-year-old cheerleader at South Fork High School.

The vehicles collided head-on and both drivers died.

Whelan had been arrested more than 40 times since 1994 in Florida on charges including DUI, battery, disorderly intoxication, larceny, shoplifting, disorderly conduct, loitering or prowling, cocaine possession, robbery, trespassing, failure to appear and aggravated assault, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records.

Whelan's blood-alcohol content measured 0.306 — more than three times the legal limit of 0.08, a crash report states. The results of a drug test were positive, but it wasn't immediately clear what drug.

Lt. Tim Frith, Florida Highway Patrol spokesman, said a 0.306 blood-alcohol content is "grossly over the limit."

"You're really, really at the point of passing out," he said.

Frith said penalties for DUI offenses are enhanced for those with a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 or greater.

Smith had no drugs or alcohol in her system. At the time of the crash, Smith was headed home after dropping off her 17-year-old boyfriend, driving north in a Ford Ranger south of Osprey Street. She was an only child.

Smith would have been a junior at South Fork this year, and was a varsity cheerleader, a lifelong friend said at the time.

The three-page crash report from the FHP didn't indicate where Whelan had been in the hours before the incident.

Whelan lived in the small town of Palm Beach Shores, and all 15 officers in the department knew him, Lt. Steve Langevin has said.

Because his driver's license was suspended, the town tracked his comings and goings using an automatic license-plate reader. As soon as they knew Whelan was on the road, they would send an officer to find him.

"He just always had a problem with alcohol. He used to get into fights with his brother, his father, trespass on the property," Langevin has said. "It's always been alcohol related, constantly."

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