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Driver Had 5 DWI Arrests; Crash Claimed His Life, 5 Others

By Russell Max Simon
Journal Northern Bureau
    SANTA FE— A freeway collision that killed five members of a Las Vegas, N.M., family claimed a sixth victim Sunday— the drunken driver who hit them head-on.
    A blood test drawn at the University of New Mexico hospital showed that driver Dana Papst had a blood-alcohol content of 0.32 percent, four times the state's presumed level of intoxication, Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano said.



Dana Papst

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  •     Records show Papst had been arrested for DWI at least five times in Colorado, Solano said.
        Papst, 44, of Tesuque, crashed into the Gonzales family's minivan shortly after 8 p.m. Saturday on I-25 just north of Santa Fe, Solano said. He died of internal injuries early Sunday.
        The crash killed Paul Gonzales, 36; his wife, Renee Collins Gonzales, 39; their daughters Jacqueline Gonzales, 11, and Selena Gonzales, 10; and Paul's stepdaughter, Alicia Garcia, 17.
        A sixth occupant of the minivan, Paul's other stepdaughter, Arissa Garcia, 15, is the crash's sole survivor. Arissa was recovering Sunday at St. Vincent Regional Medical Center from a broken left arm, fractured hip, and bruises to her head and chest— and from the loss of her three siblings, mother and stepfather.
        Papst's wife, Stephanie Papst, apologized and wept after being reached by phone at her Tesuque home Sunday evening.
        "I'm very sorry it happened. Dana was a very good man. I loved him very much. He was well-liked by everybody, and I feel very bad for the other family, and I'm sorry," she said before hanging up in tears.
        According to Solano, Stephanie Papst told investigators that her husband flew into Albuquerque on Saturday on a flight that originated in Sacramento, Calif., and stopped in Reno, Nev. His plane was expected to land about 5:30 p.m., she said, but she didn't hear from him.
        Dana Papst's whereabouts from the time his plane landed to when the accident occurred about 8 p.m. are unknown, Solano said. Solano said Papst's truck was headed south in I-25's northbound lane when it hit another vehicle, a Dodge van, before hitting the Gonzaleses' minivan.
        The Dodge was being driven by Pamela Case, 61, from Golden, Colo. Neither she nor two passengers in the Dodge were injured, although the vehicle itself had minor damage to one side, Solano said. Sheriff's deputies were unable to confirm earlier reports that Papst had hit two or three other vehicles before crashing into the family's minivan.
        The Gonzaleses were on their way home from the Gaylord Sheppard Soccer Tournament at the Bernalillo Soccer Complex on Saturday. They stopped in Santa Fe for dinner before getting back on the highway and continuing toward their home in Las Vegas, according to Gary Collins, Renee Collins Gonzales' uncle, who was visiting the scene of the crash Sunday morning. Some of the daughters were supposed to have attended confirmation classes in Las Vegas on Sunday, Collins said.
        The crash occurred about halfway between the Old Pecos Trail and Eldorado exits and spurred a massive response from county, city and state law enforcement and emergency personnel. Sheriff's deputies were also in touch with the District Attorney's Office because of the possibility that charges would be filed against Papst. With his death, however, Solano said no charges will be filed in connection to the crash.
        About 5 a.m. Sunday, Solano said, a sheriff's deputy noticed a Chihuahua sitting uninjured under some of the wreckage. The dog, later identified as the Gonzaleses' family pet, Amor, had been sitting there unnoticed for roughly nine hours. Solano said the dog was taken to St. Vincent and later returned to family members.
        Papst, according to Solano, had at least five DWI arrests, all of them in Colorado.
       
    For the family
        The New Mexico Rush Soccer Club plans to collect donations for a Family of Paul Gonzales fund.
        An official bank account hasn't been set up yet, but more information will be available on the soccer club's Web site, www.newmexicorush.com


    E-MAIL writer Russell Max Simon