Troopers faulted in truck-bicyclists crash case in Nevada

LAS VEGAS , -- Troopers investigating the fatal crash that claimed five bicyclists were killed last year on a Nevada highway didn't suspect that the truck driver was impaired. However, a blood test revealed that he had potentially lethal levels of methamphetamine, according to a Las Vegas television station.

Troopers faulted in truck-bicyclists crash case in Nevada

LAS VEGAS , -- Troopers investigating the fatal crash that claimed five bicyclists were killed last year on a Nevada highway didn't suspect that the truck driver was impaired. However, a blood test revealed that he had potentially lethal levels of methamphetamine, according to a Las Vegas television station.

KLAS-TV reported that it had reviewed hours of trooper video, photos and internal documents regarding the wreck. It reached an agreement in which Jordan Alexander Barson pleaded guilty to two counts each of driving under the influence causing the death. He was originally charged with 14 felonies.

Barson's evidence was weakened by the fact that troopers from Nevada Highway Patrol didn't find probable cause for them to take a sample of blood. Barson instead submitted to a voluntary blood test two hours after the accident.

According to Thomas Moskal, former Deputy Clark County District attorney, "They didn’t get a warrant in the case and that was because they didn’t suspect DUI." Moskal has since resigned from the office of the district attorney.

He said, "Ultimately, it had negative consequences down to the road."

Barson, 45 is currently serving 16-40 years in state prison. He was involved in the fatal crash that claimed the lives of Aksoy Ahmet (48), Michael Murray (57), Gerrard Nieva (41), Erin Ray (39), and Tom Trauger (57).

The wreckage occurred on the morning of December 10, 2020 on U.S. 95, between Boulder City, Searchlight, approximately 60 miles (95 km) south of Las Vegas.

A total of 20 bicyclists rode into strong headwinds during an annual recreational ride through beautiful desert in Nevada and California.

Barson worked for an Arizona-based courier company. Barson had traveled from Arizona to Las Vegas to pick up a parcel and was now on his way to Arizona.

Investigators were told that he was asleep at the wheel, and didn't remember striking bicyclists or an escort car in the right southbound lanes of the divided highway.

"I don’t have any reason to believe that he’s under the influence," a trooper stated in one of 16 body cam videos obtained by KLAS TV through a public records request.

"He believes he fell asleep." "I tend to believe that," another trooper stated.

Barson was put through a field sobriety exam by troopers as they tried to get him to consent to a voluntary blood draw.

A trooper said that Barson raised his arms and performed an "improper turn" during the test. He also used his arms to balance. A trooper filed a report later stating that the results were "unsatisfactory". He stated that Barson was shaking uncontrollably and was an emotional wreck due to the severity of the incident.

Barson finally agreed to undergo a voluntary blood test at a hospital. Documents stated that he had 948 nanograms of methamphetamine per milliliter in his system. This was nine times more than the 100 nanograms per liter limit used by prosecutors in court to prove impairment.

Later, a toxicologist wrote that Barson's blood contains meth and is frequently seen in patients who have overdosed.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2013 requires that police obtain a warrant before taking a blood sample from a driver who is suspected to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Nevada law requires that law enforcement establish probable cause to draw blood from a driver. If Barson refused to consent to a voluntary draw by troopers, they would need to call a judge to issue a warrant via telephonic communication. This is a common practice.

KLAS-TV reported that Barson was asked five times by troopers to consent to the voluntary blood draw. He was told that he would lose his license, which is the standard procedure, if they call a judge to issue a warrant. He was also informed that he might not be allowed to drive if his license is suspended.

Barson agreed to the fifth attempt.

Moskal stated that the question of Barson's consent was "free and voluntary". This meant that the evidence regarding methamphetamine wouldn't make it to a jury.

Barson was released by troopers because he did not have probable cause to be arrested. Barson was released by troopers after he returned to Kingman, Arizona. He admitted that he had consumed meth at 4 p.m. on the day of the crash.

Barson said to troopers that he didn't sleep well, but set out on the next morning for his regular work route between Las Vegas and Bullhead City, Arizona.

A Nevada Highway Patrol drug recognition expert filed a report two weeks after Barson received her blood results. It was based on the trooper videos.

She stated that it was obvious to her that Barson had been under the influence. However, the trooper who was drug recognition specialist trained did not respond to the call.

Donna Trauger, Tom's widow, pointed out the two DUI resulting death counts to which Barson pleaded guilty. Three bicyclists were named as victims. One of them was named.

She said that although he is serving time for the crime he committed, he is not receiving the right sentence. This is because the troopers failed to do their job that day.

To celebrate, Tom Trauger joined the 130-mile (209 km) bike trek. One rider was retiring and the other had a birthday.

Donna Trauger stated, "His pure joy was just being there on a beautiful morning riding his bike."

KLAS-TV stated that Gov. KLAS-TV reported that Steve Sisolak (Democrat) declined to interview on-camera about the case. Instead, a spokeswoman for the station released a statement expressing condolences and support to the loved ones of the victims. Sisolak stated that he is committed to continuing to work with local and state partners to make Nevada's roads safer.

KLAS-TV reported that the Nevada Highway Patrol as well as the state Department of Public Safety declined numerous requests for interviews.

The department stated that safety and lives are a priority for all troopers who have taken an oath "to keep our roads and communities safe."

The statement stated that the Department had thoroughly reviewed the investigation and is committed to improving investigative techniques, providing resources, and continuing training troopers.

Highway Patrol didn't explain, if any, what had changed since the accident.

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