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Langley car crash blamed on DUI driver

Ken Rufo holds his daughter Helena as he  examines his fiancée’s 2001 Volkswagen Jetta after a van driven by Richard Benofsky pushed  it into the front of an Anthes Avenue business during a multiple-car accident in Langley in August. Police say the driver of the van that caused the crash was DUI. - Brian Kelly
Ken Rufo holds his daughter Helena as he examines his fiancée’s 2001 Volkswagen Jetta after a van driven by Richard Benofsky pushed it into the front of an Anthes Avenue business during a multiple-car accident in Langley in August. Police say the driver of the van that caused the crash was DUI.
— image credit: Brian Kelly

LANGLEY — The out-of-control driver who hit a pedestrian and several cars in a dramatic daytime drama on Anthes Avenue in late August was driving under the influence, police said Thursday.

Langley Police Chief Bob Herzberg said the state toxicology report showed the driver’s blood alcohol level was .27 percent. The state threshold for DUI driving is .08.

“His blood alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit,” Herzberg said.

Police said the blood test was not taken immediately after the crash, which left one of the struck vehicles crunched into the front of an Anthes Avenue business.

“That (test) was two hours after the accident occurred,” investigating officer Randy Heston said.

Richard Benofsky, the driver in the accident, has not yet been charged.

Benofsky had initially claimed that his accelerator got stuck before the crash, which began in McLeod Alley and came to a halt at the Knitty Purls storefront after a pedestrian and at least three cars were hit by Benofsky’s vehicle.

Heston said he checked the pedal and found no mechanical failure.

“I did depress it all the way, and it snapped right back,” Heston said.

Witnesses said immediately after the crash that it was a miracle no one was killed when Benofsky’s van smacked its way from side to side through the downtown alley before flying out onto Anthes and hitting two more parked cars.

The accident occurred just before 3 p.m., when city sidewalks were bustling with tourists and locals on a sunny day.

Citations have been sent out and the case has been forwarded to the Island County Prosecutor’s Office, Langley police said.

Benofsky, a 62-year-old Brookhaven resident, likely faces driving under the influence and reckless driving charges. His arraignment has been scheduled for Oct. 10.

Herzberg said Benofsky has never had a DUI-related run-in with Langley police before. In fact, he has always been cooperative and helpful when police asked him about incidents in his neighborhood.

Heston said Benofsky was also cooperative in this case and seemed to regret the incident.

“At the scene, he kept saying ‘I’m sorry’ over and over,” Heston recalled.

The details leading up to the incident aren’t clear. But on Aug. 27, Benofsky came speeding down McLeod Alley behind the Star Store in a 1985 Chevrolet Astro Van.

The car rushed down the alley hitting a utility box near the Star Store, struck several steel posts near the edges of parking spots and knocked loose about a half-dozen stones on a raised landscaping bed.

The car then just missed the light pole next to Langley Clock & Gallery, and the pole ripped off the driver’s rear-view mirror before the van hit a large landscaping rock that knocked out a piece of the gallery’s downspout. The vehicle careened to the other side of the alley and nicked a parked 2002 Honda Passport.

The doors of the speeding van flew open and papers began to fly out as it passed the Chef’s Pantry. The car then rushed out onto Anthes, going briefly airborne, according to eyewitness reports.

After hitting the ground, the back fender dug in the vehicle left a 2-foot-long gouge in Anthes where it hit and the left front tire blew out as it hit a manhole cover.

The Astro sped across the street, striking a 2001 Volkswagen Jetta and a 2003 Chevy Tahoe. The van pushed the Jetta into the front of Knitty Purls until the Jetta started to crunch between the building and the Chevrolet.

Passers-by ran to the van to help the driver, who had a cut on his head and other minor injuries. Benofsky was later transported to Whidbey General Hospital, where he was treated for his injuries and the blood alcohol test was taken.

One pedestrian was also injured as he hit the ground while diving out of the path of the vehicle.

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