An Ontario man testified Monday that a pickup truck nearly swiped his car while weaving through traffic more than two years ago on state Route 62, north of Desert Center, minutes before that same vehicle crashed head-on with another truck in the opposing lane.
Ryan Genereux was the first witness called by the prosecution in the trial of Austin Bly Ellington, who is accused of causing a head-on collision while driving drunk on June 29, 2018, which killed one of his passengers and the driver of the other truck.
Genereux said he witnessed the involved pickup passing several vehicles — including his — at high speeds while veering side-to-side on the two-lane thoroughfare.
“When it tried to pass me, it almost swerved in front of me and hit me,” Genereux said.
Ellington, 21, of Anza could be sentenced to 32 years and four months in state prison if convicted of two counts of DUI gross vehicular manslaughter and one count each of driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury and driving with a blood-alcohol content exceeding .08% causing bodily injury, along with several sentence-enhancing allegations.
A trial brief prepared by Deputy District Attorney Karen Salas alleges Ellington, who was 18 at the time, was driving while drunk while traveling on eastbound state Route 62, east of state Route 177, while passing several vehicles at speeds that reached 70 mph.
Ellington was driving in a multi-vehicle caravan to Parker, Arizona, to celebrate the Fourth of July at Lake Havasu when the crash occurred during the evening hours, according to the brief.
According to California Highway Patrol Officer Jackie Quintero, Ellington’s truck entered the westbound lane and slammed head-on into another pickup driven by 57-year-old Banning resident David Brian Chance, who died at the scene. Mariah Garcia, 20, of Anza, was riding in Ellington’s truck and also died at the scene, the officer said.
A video posted to social media by one of the occupants traveling in the defendant’s truck shows him driving with an apparent beer bottle between his legs, which prosecutors believe was filmed during the excursion to Lake Havasu, the brief says.
A blood sample taken 2 1/2 hours after the crash showed the defendant’s blood-alcohol content at .08%, according to court papers.
Ellington and another of his passengers were airlifted to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs for treatment of what were described as major injuries. He was arrested on July 17, 2018, at the hospital, more than two weeks after the crash, according to county jail records.
Ellington is additionally awaiting trial on a felony case from April 2018 that includes allegations that he discharged a firearm in a negligent manner.
Court records indicate Ellington has a prior felony conviction, although additional information was not available.
Prosecution testimony is scheduled to resume Wednesday, with the trial expected to go into the first or second week of November, according to prosecutors
Ellington remains out of custody after posting $220,000 bail.