Driver facing felony charge in one of many holiday DUI arrests

Thomas Carlton Crehore

The wreck that Isle of Palms police officers investigated after dark on New Year's Day served as a poignant reminder of the possible dangers of driving during the holiday.

A vehicle had flipped over, and all four of its occupants spilled out. Three of them were hurt, and one had life-threatening brain injuries and liver lacerations.

The driver, the only person who wasn't hurt, smelled of alcohol, the police said in an incident report. Officers said they found an open can of Coors Light nearby.

By the end of the night, they arrested Thomas Carlton Crehore, 23, of Charlotte on a charge of felony driving under the influence with great bodily injury.

His jailing was one of two DUI arrests on Isle of Palms and 14 throughout Charleston County from New Year's Eve through Friday morning, a holiday stretch when police agencies typically see an uptick in such activity.

It's also a time when more tragedies are reported on South Carolina's roads, but statewide authorities said this year's period has gotten off to a more tranquil start - with the Lowcountry providing the lone exception. One person died early Thursday on Folly Road on James Island. But that was the only traffic fatality reported statewide this New Year's Day, and authorities said the driver involved was not drunk. Seven people died on last year's holiday, according to the S.C. Department of Public Safety.

The department's Lt. Kelley Hughes called the numbers a "much better start to 2015."

The primary victim in the Isle of Palms wreck, 21-year-old Matthew Russell Lamb of Mount Pleasant, was taken to Medical University Hospital, where he was in intensive care Thursday night, police documents stated. An update on his condition was not available Friday afternoon, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Crehore was free on bail Friday.

Elsewhere in the Lowcountry, the S.C. Highway Patrol's Troop 6 arrested seven people on DUI charges Wednesday and Thursday in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties, Senior Trooper Hannah Wimberly said. The agency's "Sober or Slammer" campaign, which includes sobriety checkpoints on major roads during overnight hours, netted 42 DUI arrests between Dec. 12 and New Year's Day in the tri-county area, Wimberly said.

Through a second campaign, "Target Zero," troopers made it their mission to prevent all traffic deaths going into the new year.

Berkeley County alone recorded 14 more fatalities in 2014 than it did in 2013, Wimberly said. To lessen the numbers, troopers targeted the state and secondary roads, where most of the deaths occurred, she said.

"Not only were we checking for DUIs, but we checked for speeding, made sure people had their lights on, their cars were working correctly and that they were wearing their seat belts," Wimberly said. "People are a lot more careful when they know troopers are out there working."

Wimberly emphasized the role that seat belts play in limiting traffic fatalities.

"It could be a simple, minor collision, but if you hit the car a certain way or if you are ejected from the vehicle, it can end in a fatality," Wimberly said. "If you're wearing a seat belt, the chances of living are much higher."

Crehore's DUI arrest Thursday in Isle of Palms was the second of the day that had resulted from a wreck in the city's limits, Police Chief Thomas Buckhannon said.

Officers went around 7:55 p.m. to the site at 21st Avenue and Waterway Boulevard where Crehore's International Scout had rolled over. They found Lamb unresponsive and two others, a 20-year-old Greenville woman and a 21-year-old Matthews, N.C., man, suffering "severe" injuries to their faces and mid-body, according to the report.

When Lamb woke up, police said Crehore whispered to him not to tell the investigators about what happened. Later at the hospital, the two other passengers also refused to speak with detectives, the report stated, and Crehore acknowledged only that he was driving.

Officers got a search warrant so a nurse could draw his blood, which was sent to a state laboratory for testing. Crehore was issued a ticket for felony DUI, which is punishable with up to 15 years in prison.

During a bond hearing Friday, Magistrate Richard Lingenfelter granted $10,000 bail for Crehore, who soon posted the amount.

Court paperwork stated only that a victim had suffered a broken arm, and no affidavit provided further details about crash, Lingenfelter said after the proceeding.

Christina Elmore contributed to this report. Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.