The driver of the truck that hit and killed a 70-year-old man on Bayshore Boulevard last week had to be drinking far more than he apparently told investigators, according to an expert and an arrest report.
Benjamin Douglas Ehas, 31, told Tampa police officers he had downed a double shot of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, but authorities said his blood-alcohol concentration after the crash was 0.234.
More likely? At least 10 drinks, said Bruce Goldberger, the chief of the Division of Forensic Medicine in the University of Florida’s Department of Pathology.
“There’s no possible way that the double shot would result in that blood-alcohol concentration,” Goldberger said.
Basic math, he said, indicates that a single drink adds about .02 to blood-alcohol concentration in an average man. Ehas is 5’11” and weighs 140 pounds, according to Hillsborough County jail records, skinnier than average. Deputies likely just estimated his weight, rather than putting him on a scale, according to a spokeswoman.
The body metabolizes alcohol at a level of about 0.015 per hour, Goldberger said, meaning that between his last drink and the time doctors drew his blood, Ehas’ blood-alcohol concentration dropped. That would mean he could have had more than 10 drinks.
The body starts metabolizing alcohol as soon as a person drinks, said Aaron White, the senior scientific adviser to the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. But even with no metabolism, the peak blood-alcohol concentration in an average 140-pound man after two shots would be about .061, White said.
Ehas was arrested at Tampa General Hospital two hours after the crash on Bayshore, according to the report. Fireball is 66 proof, less than a standard 80-proof shot.
“Operating a motor vehicle with this level of alcohol in the blood puts the driver at risk as well as other persons at risk for injury and death,” Goldberger said.
Many online calculators approximate blood-alcohol concentration. Colleges publish charts, showing how many drinks it takes for people of different weights to reach certain levels. Florida State University, for instance, shares a card that says even 10 drinks, over five hours, would put a 140 pound man at about a 0.19 blood-alcohol concentration.
Florida law presumes a person is impaired at 0.08.
Ehas, according to an arrest report, said he smoked marijuana at 7 a.m., mixing substances in a way that could increase impairment, but not the amount of alcohol in his blood.
Investigators have not released any information about where he was before the crash at 11:13 a.m. He was driving a Pinch a Penny pool supply truck and said he drank whiskey 13 minutes before he struck and killed George Gage, a retired financial trust officer in South Tampa who was out for a stroll on scenic Bayshore Boulevard.
Witnesses told officers Ehas was driving 60 to 70 mph in a 35 mph zone. He faces charges of vehicular homicide and DUI manslaughter.
The crash has sparked calls for change on Bayshore, where a mother and daughter were killed in 2018 by a teen police say was street racing at 102 mph. Residents have said the road is too dangerous, a common site for speeding, and should have fewer lanes, speed bumps and a more substantial barrier between pedestrians and cars.
Larry Coggins, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving West Central Florida, said the crash is an example of a crisis of people driving while intoxicated.
“We totally support the folks on Bayshore wanting to keep their roadway safe, because we do too, but in addition to Bayshore Boulevard we want to keep them all safe,” Coggins said. “It is very hard for a community to understand the severity and the public health epidemic (that) impaired driving is, and this is a prime example of how deadly it is, how preventable it is and how it can strike any one of us at any moment.”