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| Crime |

Dana Beales's distracted driving killed tow-truck operator, State Patrol says

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These days, there are more devices than ever with which to distract ourselves. But taking advantage of them while driving can have fatal consequences.

That appears to be what happened in the case of Martin Braden, a tow-truck operator who was cleaning up an accident alongside a Colorado State Patrol trooper when he was hit and killed. Now, Dana Beales has been formally charged in the crash, with distracted driving being a key part of the accusations against him. Photos, video and details below.

On August 24, according to the CSP, Braden, a Weld County resident, was working an accident on Highway 85, with Trooper Scott Rendfrey helping out by using his cruiser to block traffic so that the tow-truck operator could clean up the scene. Not that Beales, a 61 year old from Fort Lupton, noticed -- or at least noticed in time. He crashed his 2004 Ford F-250 pickup into Rendfrey's vehicle, creating a chain reaction that struck Braden, whose injuries were so severe that he died before he could be transported to a hospital. The CSP maintains that visibility shouldn't have been a problem for Beales; it was a clear day and emergency lights on the tow truck and the cruiser were operating properly. But Beales is said to have been speeding -- the estimate is 86 miles per hour in a 65 MPH zone -- and was allegedly "distracted by multiple in-vehicle stimuli immediately prior to the crash." Hence, Beales's booking on a potpourri of charges: vehicular homicide (reckless driving), third-degree assault, two counts of reckless endangerment (2 counts), careless driving caused injury, reckless driving.

Such incidents happen all too often: Note the 2011 arrest of Zachariah Dobler for allegedly hitting and killing a tow-truck driver while drunk. No wonder the CSP offers this piece of advice: "The Colorado State Patrol reminds motorists to move over at least one lane when approaching stationary emergency, road maintenance, and tow vehicles with activated emergency lights. If motorists cannot move over safely, they must slow down and proceed with due care and caution."

Look below to see Beales's booking photo, followed by a 7News report from shortly after the crash.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive circa August 2011: "Zachariah Dobler: Murder charge for running over tow-truck driver at DUI crash while drunk."

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