Tanker truck driver who OD'd at gas station had previous OVI conviction

Correction: RelaDyne, the company whose truck Kristopher Phoenix was operating, told WCPO in October he was operating an empty tanker truck used for waste oil, not fuel as police initially indicated. WCPO regrets this error.

CLEVES, Ohio -- A tanker truck driver whom police said overdosed with the motor running outside a gas station has been convicted of operating a vehicle under the influence before, according to records from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Police discovered Kristopher Phoenix bleeding from the nose and slumped to the floorboard of his truck after an overdose Wednesday morning, Police Chief Rick Jones said. Phoenix’s driver record indicates this wasn’t his first drug- or alcohol-related encounter with law enforcement: He was convicted of OVI in Ottowa County October 20, 2004. 

His license was suspended for eight months as a result of that arrest and conviction. Phoenix’s driver record also contains three other suspensions for infractions related to non-compliance and improper equipment. 

Phoenix's tanker was stopped at a BP station along U.S. Route 50 and state Route 264 Wednesday when a passerby spotted his prone body and told a clerk inside.

"It was kind of the perfect scenario of a bad storm, because you’ve got a ... tanker truck with some sort of flammable liquid throughout the whole thing parked at a BP gas station with a driver who has overdosed on heroin," Jones said. "You could not ask for a worse scenario."

The chief said he startled Phoenix when he got inside. Phoenix admitted to using heroin, Jones said, but he didn't need naloxone to be revived. The truck also contained pills.

Jones said Phoenix was on the clock; WCPO contacted his employer, but no one was available to talk about his arrest.

Drugged driving has overtaken drunk driving as one of the leading perils of the road, according to recent data from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

A recent AAA survey also found that a majority of Ohio drivers now see driving after using illegal drugs as a "bigger threat" than those who drive after drinking alcohol, according to regional spokeswoman Cheryl Parker.

 

"This latest incident involving a ... truck driver shows just how dangerous this problem has become," Parker said in a statement Wednesday. "Public awareness is critical when we talk about preventing drugged drivers from getting behind the wheel."

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This story contains prior reporting by WCPO.com/WCPO Insider's Pat LaFleur.

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