Metro-East News

SUV driver in triple fatal crash had 2014 DUI

Wreck on Centreville Avenue in Belleville

Emergency crews were called Friday to a fatal crash on Centreville Avenue south of Belleville.
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Emergency crews were called Friday to a fatal crash on Centreville Avenue south of Belleville.

More than two years before he was killed in a crash, Alejandro Salen was arrested in Belleville for driving under the influence. His blood alcohol content was .21 — more than two times the legal limit, according to the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office.

It was his first offense.

Salen, 48, was recently involved in a triple fatal crash after the Ford Escape he was driving on Illinois 158 crossed over into oncoming traffic and hit a Chevrolet truck head-on. The crash killed Salen and two people in the truck, including 74-year-old Jerilyn Hess and 24-year-old Christopher Craig. The driver of the truck, Donald Hess, 74, survived and is listed in critical, but stable condition at St. Louis University Hospital.

Illinois State Police Trooper Calvin Dye Jr. said an open active warrant was issued in St. Clair County for Salen’s arrest in connection with the 2014 traffic stop when he was cited for DUI, driving without a valid license, improper traffic lane usage and operating an uninsured vehicle.

According to court documents, Salen was arrested the night of June 1, 2014, by Belleville Police Officer Kathy Wallen. Wallen wrote in her report that Salen didn’t have a valid license and agreed to testing. The breathalyzer test showed that Salen had a blood alcohol content that was nearly three times the legal limit of .08.

Illinois State Police trooper Calvin Dye Jr. talks about the fatal wreck on Illinois 158 south of Belleville on Dec. 9, 2016. The Ford Escape driver and two passengers in the Chevy pickup all died, with only the truck driver surviving.

“City worker called in the (sic) vehicle was all over the roadway, driver had red, glassy eyes, slurred speech, admitted to drinking and failed field sobriety tests,” Wallen wrote in the 2014 report.

Salen’s license and driving privileges were suspended on July 17, 2014, more than a month after his arrest, according to a notice from the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. The suspension was supposed to last for six months at a minimum.

Court records indicated that Salen was present without an attorney at his first scheduled court appearance on July 17, 2014, but the court appearance was continued, records said. The court said Salen failed to show up when the court appearance was rescheduled to Aug. 21, 2014. A $300 bond that had been posted was forfeited after Salen failed to appear, court records said. That’s when a warrant was issued for Salen’s arrest. The court set his bail at $10,000.

Dye said Friday that Salen appeared to be at fault when the Escape he was driving swerved in front of the maroon Chevrolet truck, but the official cause of the crash is still under investigation by Illinois State Police.

“It’s just a very unfortunate incident all the way around,” Dye said.

A toxicology report for Salen is pending, according to the St. Clair County Coroner’s Department. Results will be available in four to six weeks.

Kaitlyn Schwers: 618-239-2526, @kaitlynschwers

Kelsey Landis: 618-239-2110, @kelseylandis

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