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State investigators to determine if bar is liable in weekend crash

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SALT LAKE CITY — The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into the activities of a downtown Salt Lake City bar after a Friday night crash.

“Anytime we have a crash involving an intoxicated person or a severely intoxicated person, a death or serious injury crash, or anytime we have minors involved, we can initiate a T.R.A.C.E investigation,” said Sgt. Anthony Carrubba of the Utah Department of Public Safety.

A T.R.A.C.E investigation, or Target Responsibility for Alcohol Connected Emergencies, is a way for investigators to determine the source of the alcohol that may have contributed to the incident.

Christopher York, 31, of Lehi, remains in the hospital. He was driving south on I-15 near the I-215 interchange with passenger Amber Wright, 28, of West Jordan, according to the Utah Highway Patrol. At some point, York suddenly swerved to take the I-215 belt route after the exit-only lanes had already split from I-15.

York's Jeep clipped a crash barrier and flipped onto its top, according to UHP. The vehicle slid across all three lanes onto the I-215 ramp for roughly 400 feet before resting against the wall in the right emergency lane, police said.

Neither York nor Wright were wearing their seat belts, according to police. The Jeep’s roof collapsed upon impact, and medical crews had to extricate both York and Wright from the vehicle.

Crews transported York to Intermountain Medical Center in Murray in critical condition with head trauma and facial fractures, but Wright was not injured, according to UHP.

Alcohol investigators are conducting interviews and reviewing a timeline of events to determine if the bar that served York alcohol is culpable in the crash.

“Had he been drinking prior to being in that establishment or had be become intoxicated there?” asked Carrubba.

The bureau averages between eight and 10 T.R.A.C.E investigations per year and sometimes those cases can be tough to prove, he said.

“Sometimes you might not be able to determine where that person came from or how much they had to drink at that establishment,” explained Carrubba. However analyzing credit or debit card purchases can help investigators determine how much alcohol was consumed.

“So if one person goes into an establishment and has a tab of $100 or $150, that could be an indication that there was an over-service,” said Carrubba.

If investigators determine a bar is liable in a DUI case, there are stiff penalties.

“I’ve seen fines as high as $15,000,” said Carrubba. “I think it hurts these establishments if they get shut down for say five, seven or 10 days. That’s a lot of business they could be losing.”

Prosecutors have not charged York but say he still could face DUI charges. The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control can suspend or revoke a bar's license if investigators prove the bar was responsible in a DUI case.

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