THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | January 20, 2017
The family of two teenagers in a car crash that killed the driver and seriously injured his passenger are feeling vindicated by an investigation that showed no alcohol or drugs were involved, contrary to initial CHP reports.
Sonoma County Sheriff’s Capt. Mark Essick confirmed Friday that blood tests showed no alcohol or drugs in Endrias Atlaw, 18, of Santa Rosa, who died in the early morning hours of Oct. 9 when his car hit a tree off Highway 1 north of Bodega Bay.
“I was very happy he was not involved in anything like this,” said his father, Fesseha Atlaw, who from the start discounted a CHP press release that said alcohol may have played a part.
Atlaw was described as “a straight shooter,” a promising student and active member of a youth group at Rock Calvary Church who did not like to drink.
For those who knew him, that conflicted with the initial account from the CHP that stated alcohol was believed to be a factor in the collision. But within days, the agency was downplaying the possibility.
“I did try to reach out to the parents to straighten it out, (to say) someone spoke too soon,” Officer Jon Sloat said, adding that “conflicting witness statements at the (accident) scene led people to misconstrue they were under the influence, as opposed to some traumatic injury.”
Atlaw and his passenger, Aleksandra Ivanova, 18, of Rohnert Park, both worked at In-N-Out Burger in Santa Rosa. The two had headed to a beach on the Sonoma Coast to “hang out” with fellow employees from the hamburger chain.
On their way back, Ivanova fell asleep. It was just before 2 a.m. when Atlaw for an unknown reason lost control of his northbound 2004 Honda Civic between Bodega Bay and Bodega, according to the CHP, went off the road, spun and hit a eucalyptus tree at the driver’s side door. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The injured Ivanova screamed, yelled and attempted to hit a witness who came to her aid, according to the CHP, but that apparently led to an erroneous conclusion that she was intoxicated.
A head injury can cause a person to act that way when in reality there is no impairment, Sloat acknowledged. Ivanova suffered a concussion, broken collarbone, broken ribs, broken pelvic bones, lacerations and bruises.
Her mother, Svetlana Clark, this week gave a reporter copies of her daughter’s medical reports showing she had no alcohol or commonly abused drugs in her system when she arrived at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital the night of the accident.
“My daughter doesn’t drink,” Clark said. “She’s not interested.”
The final CHP report also showed Ivanova had on a seat belt, contrary to the early news release statement.
Clark said her daughter, nicknamed “Alaska,” spent nearly a month in the hospital and is still recovering.
“She can’t sit for too long. Her pelvis was broken in three places,” said Clark, adding that her daughter had an approximate 5-inch-long metal screw inserted into her pelvis to help her walk sooner. But she is back at work, taking a couple of classes at Santa Rosa Junior College and wants to be a nurse.
It will take more time to heal, but, “she’s OK,” Clark said.