Elderly man charged in wrong-way crash on I-5 in Tacoma

Pierce County prosecutors have charged an 86-year-old University Place man with vehicular assault, saying he was driving drunk when he caused a wrong-way crash on Interstate 5 in Tacoma that left a woman injured.

Deputy prosecutor Tim Jones wrote in charging papers filed Wednesday that Panos Spiros Palas had a blood-alcohol level of 0.123 when he was arrested Tuesday near the Tacoma Dome. The legal limit is 0.08.

Palas pleaded not guilty Wednesday during his arraignment in Superior Court. Judge Garold Johnson ordered him jailed in lieu of $35,000 bail.

Washington State Patrol troopers contend he was at the wheel of a Toyota RAV 4 that was headed north in the southbound lanes about 10 p.m. Monday. The Toyota hit two southbound cars. A woman riding in one of them suffered a broken leg and was taken to a Tacoma hospital for treatment.

A trooper who questioned Palas at the scene said he smelled of intoxicants and spoke with a slur, court records show.

“I asked (him) what had happened, and he stated he’d been driving from Auburn and gotten turned around in the construction area,” the trooper wrote in a report.

Palas first denied having drunk any alcohol but later “admitted to drinking brandy for a cough and stated it helped with his medicine,” court records show.

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