WARNING: Some viewers may find the video in this story disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.
(WKBN) – Data from the Ohio State Highway Patrol shows from 2019 to December 2022, there were more than 1,800 OVI-related crashes combined in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties. We obtained the dash and body camera video showing local troopers’ encounter with an impaired driver that likely saved his life.
The Ohio Department of Transportation estimates the traffic count on Interstate 80 in the Austintown area is more than 50,000 a day.
By chance, just after 9:15 a.m. on Sept. 27, a trooper driving east on the interstate was behind one driver who Highway Patrol Sgt. Ray Santiago says showed clear and obvious signs something was going on. The startling maneuvers were captured on the trooper’s dash camera.
“When you initially watch this video, it’s shocking. I mean, it’s 100 percent just, you know, jaw-dropping that this was someone that was on our roads in the middle of our morning when we’re all running to work, dropping kids off to school,” Santiago said.
In the video, you can see the driver crash off the road on Interstate 680 and cross two lanes of traffic before coming to a stop. Body camera video shows the driver, identified as Russell Hukari, slumped over in the driver’s seat.
“You don’t know what you’re walking up to and in this case, not only was it someone that was very impaired, it was somebody that was likely going to die due to an overdose,” Santiago said.
The video shows troopers giving Hukari several doses of naloxone. Troopers said the results of a urine test came back positive for a combination of drugs.
“We have to be able to train and identify and be able to act quickly to intercede in not just the enforcement aspect of it, but in saving someone’s life, and that’s exactly what happened here,” Santiago said.
Last month, Hukari pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges related to what happened including OVI, driving under suspension and failure to control in Mahoning County court in Austintown.
“It’s not just about putting someone in handcuffs, it’s about keeping folks safe. It’s about changing behaviors and, you know, at times, just like in this case, we have to start with making sure that person is OK before we can continue that process to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Santiago said.
Santiago says incidents like this happen all the time. He encourages drivers who believe someone may be impaired behind the wheel to call #677.