Jury trial begins for Sandy man charged in crash that killed Westlake High student
Mar 22, 2023, 11:38 AM
PROVO, Utah — Amber Sais testified that she heard a “very loud” acceleration behind her as she was stopping for a yellow light on Redwood Road in Saratoga Springs in May 2021.
Looking in her rearview mirrors, she saw a car quickly change lanes as it was coming up on her. She told her young son, “There goes another speeder. He’s going to run a red light.”
Sais said she was the second car back at the intersection when she saw the car run a red light, heard a collision and saw two cars slam into a retaining wall.
She immediately called 911, because she said she knew there would be major damage. In a phone call played in court Monday, she told the dispatcher medical aid would definitely be needed.
“The cars are completely smooshed. I wouldn’t be surprised if the people inside are dead,” she told the dispatcher.
Since Sais is a registered nurse, she went to help — first going to Daniel Stanislav MacBeth, the driver of the car she saw pass her, and asked him questions to see if he was coherent. Then she said she went to the second car, which had been turning left off Redwood Road onto Harvest Hills Boulevard, and tried to find a pulse for the young driver.
She got emotional as she told the jury she wishes she would have pushed past concerns from others at the scene about moving the young driver and tried to start CPR sooner.
“I know what to do, and I wanted to do it, and I feel like I kind of froze because the people around me didn’t feel like we should move his body. … As soon as that happened, I turned around and I started running down the road because I had seen an ambulance pull up, and I just started yelling, ‘He needs CPR,'” she said.
Ammon Chandler Blake, 16, died when his car was hit. MacBeth, of Sandy, is accused of running a red light and hitting the car that day while driving under the influence and on a revoked license.
A trial began Monday to determine whether MacBeth is guilty of manslaughter, a second-degree felony.
MacBeth, 29, pleaded guilty on March 1 to driving with a measurable controlled substance in the body, being an alcohol restricted-driver, class B misdemeanors; and driving on a suspended or revoked license, a class C misdemeanor. In the plea, MacBeth admitted to driving a vehicle with a “measurable amount of benzoylecgonine” which indicates recent cocaine use.
Defense attorney Benjamin Aldana said during opening arguments at the trial that they do not think MacBeth’s actions fit the legal definition for reckless, which is an element of the manslaughter charge. He noted that Blake did not stop before turning left and was racing the same light.
“It’s obvious that both are trying to rush into the intersection and not paying the attention they need to pay when there’s an intersection like this,” he said.
Deputy Utah County attorney Sandi Johnson said the investigation shows MacBeth was traveling between 84 mph and 99 mph when he entered the intersection, based on skid marks as his car spun and damage to the vehicles. She said MacBeth’s car landed 196 feet from the intersection after spinning down the road. Blake’s car spun, went up onto a rock retaining wall and hit a tree.
She said as MacBeth was driving on 2100 North in Lehi toward Redwood Road, he was tailing an off-duty officer who was traveling home. After the two cars turned south onto Redwood Road, the officer brake checked the car, and when he continued following closely, he did a second brake check.
Johnson said MacBeth then merged around the officer, flipping him off twice; she said the officer then saw him continue accelerating and the officer estimated he was going between 70 mph and 80 mph at that point.
She said MacBeth was reckless and caused Blake’s death.
“The defendant chose to speed, and he eliminated any choice for Ammon (Blake),” Johnson said.
Johnson said after 40 minutes of attempting life-saving measures, paramedics pronounced Blake dead at the scene of the accident.
MacBeth’s jury trial before Judge Robert Lunnen is expected to run through Friday.