Driver charged in deaths of three fellow Marines

Article Tab: Retired Navy commander Carlos Olvera of Dana Point plants a flag for the three Marines lost their lives in a car crash early Tuesday morning. A fourth Marine is still in critical condition.

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DANA POINT – A 25-year-old Marine was charged Wednesday with killing three fellow Marines by crashing into a tree while driving under the influence of alcohol, authorities said.

Jared Ray Hale is facing three felony counts of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated without gross negligence, according to a written release from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Hale, also facing possible sentencing enhancements for driving with a blood-alcohol level of more than 0.15 percent and causing great bodily injury, faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison, prosecutors said.

Authorities say Hale and three fellow Marines – Christopher Arzola, 21; Jeremiah Callahan, 23; and Jason Chleborad, 22 – arrived at Hennessey’s Tavern in Dana Point about 10:30 p.m. Feb. 13.

The four men reportedly left the bar about 1:50 a.m., with Hale driving his Dodge sedan and the other three men as passengers.

About 10 minutes later, investigators believe, Hale was driving northbound on Golden Lantern when he lost control of the sedan while approaching a curve in the road at the Terra Vista intersection.

The sedan went over a landscaped median, crashed into a tree on the passenger’s side of the vehicle and spurn around the tree before coming to rest, prosecutors said.

Callahan and Arzola were pronounced dead at the scene. Chleborad was taken to Mission Hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

Authorities say Hale was knocked unconscious during the crash and was taken to Mission Hospital to be treated for brain trauma and a fractured arm.

About an hour and a half after the crash, Hale was found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.16 percent, prosecutors said, twice the legal limit.

Bill Paparian, an attorney representing Hale, disputed the District Attorney’s Office’s assertion that his client was under the influence at the time of the crash.

Paparian said Hale was the designated driver for the three other Marines, who were his subordinates. Hale’s attorney contended that witnesses at the bar, both military and civilian, indicated Hale had not been drinking.

Instead, Paparian said, rainy weather that night was the cause of the crash.

“This was an accident that was caused by rain and hydroplaning,” Paparian said.

Paparian also disputed the blood-alcohol level cited by authorities.

“There was no basis for them to withdraw blood pursuant to a criminal investigation at that point,” Paparian said. “He was unconscious and not under arrest.”

In a statement released through his attorney, Hale outlined his original desire to become a Marine, as well as his friendship with Callahan, Arzola and Chleborad.

“Every day, I’m faced with the overwhelming and insurmountable grief and loss of not just co-workers, fellow Marines and friends, but the realization that my brothers are gone,” the statement read. “I will never again have the pleasure of seeing them, hanging out with them or turning to a single one of them when I feel like my very world is falling apart. … I turn to them still when the days are tough as most days are and it’s through them I find the strength to carry on.”

Hale is recovering at a medical-rehabilitation facility. His arraignment date has not been set, although prosecutors indicated that they plan to request $100,000 bail.

According to statements released by Camp Pendleton, where the four were stationed, Chleborad, Arzola and Callahan had all enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2008.

Before the crash, Chleborad, a South Dakota native, had been awarded the Navy and Marine Cops Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and NATO ISAF Afghanistan Medal.

Arzola, A Massachusetts native, had received the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Callahan, a Nebraska native, had been awarded the Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and NATO ISAF Afghanistan Medal.

According to his attorney, Hale also enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2008, rising to the rank of sergeant by 2011. He said Hale was awarded a Combat Action Ribbon, a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Sea Service Deployment Medal, National Defense Service Medal, NATO ISAF Afghanistan Medal and a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

After the crash, Dana Point leaders moved to institute more than a dozen restrictions at Hennessey’s and the neighboring Fish Bucket restaurant, cracking down on what city officials described as a “nightclub atmosphere” that had “gotten out of control.”

Staff writer Frank Shyong contributed to this report.


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