Two Sparta men were arrested together early Saturday morning for DWI following a Hit & Run Accident on Woodport Road. At 2:46 am, Officer C.J. Grauerholz was on routine patrol traveling south on Woodport Road when he came upon a man dressed in dark clothing walking in the intersection of Sawmill Road, towards a 2005 silver BMW parked and running in the middle of Sawmill Road.
Grauerholz stopped in front of the BMW and approached the driver’s side of the vehicle. The man in dark clothing was now sitting in the front passenger seat and was identified as 20-year-old Brian J. Byers. The operator of the vehicle was identified as 20-year-old Alexander Zambenedetti.
The temperature on scene was 1-degree with wind chill temperatures dropping to as low as -15 degrees. Despite the dangerous frigid temperatures, Zambenedetti was not wearing a shirt. He stated that he had fallen down and the shirt had gotten wet. On the back seat of the vehicle in Plain View were two plastic five gallon buckets which still had some water in each.
Subsequent investigation revealed the following: earlier in the evening Byers was involved in a motor vehicle accident while operating a 2001 black BMW530 which was registered to a family member. Byers, who was alone, was traveling north on Sawmill Road, failed to stop at the Stop Sign at the intersection of Woodport Road, crossed and struck a guide rail on the other side of the roadway. He then fled, driving his damaged vehicle back to his home which is less than a mile away.
Byers later returned to the scene of the accident driven by Zambenedetti. They brought with them two five gallon buckets filled with water, which Byers poured onto the intersection (it is not known at this time how many trips were made with water). What is known is that the intersection was too dangerous to drive on because it was now covered with black ice. The Sparta Department of Public Works was dispatched to the scene and applied approximately a ½ ton of salt to make the area safe. The intention was to report that the accident was caused by the black ice and not because Byers was under the influence of alcohol.
Byers was arrested at the scene and transported to police headquarters by Grauerholz for processing and breath testing. He was later charged with; DWI, Careless Driving, Failure to Stop at a Stop Sign, Leaving the Scene of an Accident, Failure to Report an Accident and Disorderly Conduct for Creating a Dangerous Condition by Purposely Icing the Intersection.
Zambenedetti was arrested at the scene by Cpl. Richard Smith after he failed a series of Field Sobriety Tests. He too was transported to Police Headquarters for processing and Breath Testing. Zambendetti, denied operating his motor vehicle and had no explanation how his car got to Sawmill Road despite being seated in the driver’s seat with the engine running.
He also denied pouring any water on the roadway. He was charged with; DWI, Careless Driving and Failure to Wear a Seatbelt. His vehicle was later impounded. Both men were released later in the morning to sober adults. The investigation is continuing and additional charges are pending. The duo has a First Appearance in Sparta Municipal Court on February 19, 2015 at 9:00 am to answer to the above mention charges. Sgt. Joseph Pensado and Sparta Department of Public Works Road Supervisor Joseph Straway assisted at the scene.