A veteran of the Iraq war recently entered a no contest plea after being charged with the deaths of three university students in a fatal car accident in Wisconsin. The 32-year-old was accused of driving while intoxicated when he struck a disabled vehicle in Burke.

A crash survivor told police investigators that the group of traveling students experienced a rear tire blow-out and pulled into an emergency lane on the highway.

The survivor described seeing a fast-moving vehicle as it approached the disabled car. He said he yelled to his brother-in-law and friends to warn them about the approaching vehicle. The student survivor escaped being hit by the oncoming vehicle by jumping over a barrier. Three University of Minnesota students died in the crash, all in their 20s. Two of the students were cheerleaders for the university.

Prosecuting attorneys said the veteran’s alcohol breath test registered 0.158 percent, nearly twice the legal driving limit in Wisconsin. Friends of the former soldier told police that the vet used alcohol to deal with diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Iraq veteran, charged with intoxication and vehicular homicide for the deaths of the three students, told an investigator that he was unable to see the disabled car because a tractor trailer blocked his view.

An October sentencing date has been set for the former soldier. The multiple charges – homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing injury – carry a maximum fine of $310,000 and the possibility of a 78-year prison term.

Source: chron.com, “Plea in Wis. crash that killed 3 Minn. Students,” Aug. 19, 2011