Register | Forgot Your Password? | Close

PHOENIX -- A wrong-way driver accused of causing the deaths of a young Mesa couple had drugs and alcohol in her system, according to an affidavit authorities filed this week.

An Arizona Department of Public Safety officer said in asking for a search warrant that initial tests showed Patricia Murphy, 68, had a blood-alcohol content of 0.18 percent, more than twice the amount at which a driver is presumed to be drunk.

According to the document filed Tuesday, a urine test showed Murphy also tested positive for opiates and benzodiazepine, which is found in drugs such as Valium and Xanax. Opiates can include painkillers, heroin and oxycodone.

DPS spokesman Carrick Cook said Wednesday that Murphy was hospitalized in serious condition. However, an official at the hospital named in the affidavit said she is not currently listed as a patient.

No charges have been filed. A message left at a phone listing for Murphy was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Authorities say Murphy was driving the wrong direction on the Loop 202 freeway in Gilbert early Sunday when her pickup truck collided head-on with another vehicle.

That vehicle was driven by Michael Ruquet, 25. His girlfriend, Ashley Adea, 20, was a passenger. Both were killed.

Murphy's 9-year-old grandson also was seriously injured.

The fatal head-on crash was the third on a Phoenix area freeway within a week and the second in which impairment appears to have been a factor. In all, seven people have died.

Three people from Indonesia died Friday on Interstate 17 about 30 miles north of Phoenix when their minivan encountered a wrong-way driver. DPS has not released the name of the driver in that case, a Phoenix man in his 60s. According to Cook, the man remains in extremely critical condition and is suspected of being impaired.

A May 12 wreck on a Tempe freeway ramp killed a wrong-way driver and an off-duty Mesa police officer. The driver had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit, authorities said.

The directors of DPS, the Department of Transportation and the Governor's Office of Highway Safety met Sunday to discuss possible strategies to curb wrong-way accidents.

The agencies said in a joint statement they are focusing on enforcement, engineering and education, and that removal of impaired drivers from the highways is DPS' top priority.

The Department of Transportation is looking at practices elsewhere in the country to identify any that should be adopted in Arizona, ADOT Director John Halikowski said.

ADOT previously reduced the height of ``wrong way'' signs on freeway ramps so they're closer to a driver's eye level, and for the past two decades, the agency has marked freeway lanes with reflectors that display red to wrong-way drivers.

Associated Press,

share this story:
Attention KTAR.com Comment Users: We have recently changed our comments boards.
We would like you to be part of the conversation and The Voice of Arizona by logging in with your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Disqus account. Existing KTAR (Arizona Sports) account members will need to create a Disqus account or use one of the aforementioned social media logins. Thank you.
comments powered by Disqus

World Class Arizona

  • Dignity Health

    World Class People. World Class Company. Excellent care, delivered with compassion, for all in need.

Voice For A Better Arizona

  • Family in Focus

    KTAR spends the week taking a look at the issues a modern Arizona family faces.