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Published November 09 2010

Reports released on fatal Fargo crashes

A Fargo man who died in a car crash last month was driving 93 to 108 mph on South University Drive, and a pedestrian hit and killed by a car in a separate accident had a blood-alcohol level three to four times the legal limit for driving, Fargo police said Monday.

Sgt. Joe Anderson said police have finished the two crash investigations and forwarded the results late last week to the Cass County State’s Attorney’s Office, which will consider whether to file charges.

Anderson said police were unable to confirm witness reports that 23-year-old Ruben Perales was street racing with another car when his 2002 Chevy Impala crossed the median on University Drive and struck a pillar at the Interstate 94 underpass at about 1:50 a.m. on Oct. 17.

Perales died at the scene. The driver of the other car, who is his brother, told detectives they weren’t racing, Anderson said.

The wife of another brother who wasn’t involved in the incident also previously told The Forum that Perales wasn’t racing, as did Perales’ mother.

An accident reconstruction determined Perales was driving between 93 and 108 mph, Anderson said.

“That’s kind of left up in the air as far as interpretation,” he said of whether Perales was racing.

The full autopsy report isn’t finished in the Perales case. A preliminary autopsy determined the cause of death to be blunt force trauma, Anderson said.

That also was the cause of death in the case of Marcus Bearstail, a 51-year-old man who was hit by a car and killed at 8:43 p.m. Oct. 8 while walking across 13th Avenue South between 40th and 42nd streets, not near a marked crossing, Sgt. Mark Lykken said.

An autopsy showed Bearstail had a blood-alcohol level between 0.24 and 0.36 percent at the time of the incident, Lykken said. The legal limit for driving is .08 percent.

The toxicology report wasn’t completed yet for the driver of the 2000 Grand Prix that hit Bearstail, but Anderson said there were no obvious signs of alcohol and the driver consented to blood and urine tests. There also was no indication he was speeding, Lykken said.

Jolene Gonzales, coordinator at the Three Affiliated Tribes satellite office in Fargo, said she met Bearstail when the office opened in June and was surprised to hear he’d been drinking at the time of his death.

“Every time he came into my office, he always talked about being on the road to sobriety,” she said.

Bearstail had taken up marathon running in recent years and also was a talented artist, Gonzales said, noting he made a beautiful teepee lamp for the tribal chairman at the office’s grand opening.

The two crashes were among seven major crashes that occurred in Fargo between Sept. 29 and Oct. 17, resulting in five fatalities – the only five traffic deaths in Fargo in all of 2009 and 2010.

Investigations are nearing completion in the other crashes, Anderson said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528