Jen Kocher, Cowboy State Daily
In a grim Facebook post, Ben Johnson of Casper recounted how a drunken “Fat Jesus” nearly killed him on Saturday evening.
“This is why you don’t drive drunk,” he wrote. “Fat Jesus here was totally shitfaced going 70 mph in the wrong lane…I swerved just in time and took the impact on the side…right where my 3-year-old’s car seat was. Thank god he wasn’t with me.”
Joshua Atkinson, 31, of Casper was arrested and charged with driving under the influence after hitting two vehicles Saturday night while driving in the wrong lane, according to police reports. Atkinson was arrested on a DWUI charge just after 6 p.m. with a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit.
Johnson was on his way home from work with his mind on his errand ahead. The 55-year-old food and beverage director at the Casper Country Club had just gotten off work around 6 p.m. He was heading westbound on Outer Drive toward Walmart West to pick up a couple things before heading home, driving his elder son’s coveted Ford Flex SUV.
He had just ascended the hill when he saw a truck swerve in front of him to get out of the way of something in its path. Before Johnson had time to register what was happening, he was nose-to-nose with the front of a red Ford F-250 pickup that was barreling toward him in his lane. Instinctively, Johnson jerked to the left while the other driver also corrected. The F-250 T-Boned Johnson’s SUV in the back left passenger side.
What happened next Johnson learned about from eye-witness testimony. He had no recollection of his SUV flipping a “jelly roll” in the air before landing back on its wheels.
Full of adrenaline, Johnson jumped out of his vehicle, which by then resembled a squashed tin can with air bags hanging through the open windows like wilted drapes. A trail of auto parts was spewed all over the road.
A woman, whose vehicle had also been hit by Atkinson after he veered into her lane and smashed her windshield and rearview mirror, ran over to see if Johnson was OK. When he nodded, she then ran off to check on Atkinson, whose pickup had rolled to a stop about 500 feet to the east with significant frontend damage and a missing wheel.
She reported back to Johnson that the driver appeared “shitfaced.” Another witness told Johnson that she saw the driver throw up when he got out of the pickup.
Johnson stood shell shocked by the smashed SUV, watching Atkinson stumble as he attempted to walk a straight line.
Atkinson told the Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper that he had been at a wedding on Casper Mountain where he’d had “a couple of beers,” according to court documents. He told the trooper that he had crossed into oncoming traffic after attempting to put a handful of sunflower seeds in his mouth.
The trooper noted Atkinson had “bloodshot, watery eyes and his face was flushed.”
After failing to stand on one leg and walk heel-to-toe as well and blowing a .214 on a snap PBT sample, Atkinson was arrested. His two subsequent breath tests revealed a .188 and .200, court documents state.
Atkinson pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in the Circuit Court of the Seventh Judicial District on Monday and was released on a $550 cash or surety bond.
Grateful Nobody Was Killed
Johnson is just grateful that nobody was killed or seriously injured. He’s particularly thankful that his toddler son was not in the car seat, where the impact would have surely killed him.
Unfortunately, his 19-year-old son’s coveted Flex that was destroyed in the wreck. Luckily, both his elder son and Atkinson have insurance.
Atkinson did not look at Johnson after the wreck, Johnson said, nor did Atkinson walk over to see if he was OK or to apologize.
Johnson is grateful that he swerved to the side. The drunken driver hadn’t attempted to brake after entering his lane. He’s also grateful that the F-250 and the Flex didn’t collide head-on. Had that happened, the steering column would have gone through his chest, and he likely would have been killed.
He went to the hospital after a while because he thought he might have had a broken foot but it checked out just fine, he said.
“This is why you don’t drive drunk,” he said.