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Driver who 'huffed' air duster charged in wreck that injured man

Oct 23, 2015 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

A Riverton man is facing 20 years in prison for charges that he got high on air duster and caused a head-on collision that injured another man.

Defendant David Dale Howe's case was bound over to District Court on Oct. 15.

Prosecutors charged Howe, 40, with driving under the influence resulting in serious bodily injury, and aggravated assault.

Investigators believe Howe was driving his white GMC Yukon north on Wyoming Highway 789 on July 7 after inhaling air duster.

A little after 11 a.m. July 7, Howe's vehicle entered the southbound lane of the highway just south of Hudson and struck a Lincoln MKX driven by James Harvey Richardson.

Both men went to the hospital. Richardson suffered a broken right tibia, a dislocated hip, a fractured humerus, broken left collarbone and a broken clavicle, Wyoming Highway Patrol Lt. Lee Pence said in an affidavit.

The alleged victim underwent five surgeries and spent 21 days in the hospital.

When Pence arrived at the scene of the crash, he found both vehicles had sustained damage to their front passenger sides.

Richardson still was inside his Lincoln, but Howe was outside of his SUV lying on the ground, Pence said.

Pence found a can of Ultra Duster three-quarters empty in the center console of Howe's vehicle.

He later asked Howe if he had huffed the chemical on the day of the crash. Howe said he had bought the duster at an auto parts store in Lander the morning of July 7, Pence said. Howe reportedly went to the McDonald's in Lander to buy a soda and inhaled the duster there.

Products like air duster contain compressed gas in an aerosol can. The devices commonly are used to clean electronics and cars. When inhaled, the products prevent oxygen from reaching the brain, causing a feeling of intoxication.

Pence said inhaling air duster can cause people to pass out, but Howe said he did not lose consciousness.

Data from Howe's car's airbag control module showed he was traveling at a steady speed without braking prior to the crash, Pence said.

"This indicated that the driver drifted over into the oncoming traffic lane and never activated the brakes prior to impact," the patrolman said.

Richardson's control module showed he was driving at 69 mph five seconds before his air bags were deployed, but he started braking before the impact and was traveling at 34 mph at the time of the collision, Pence said.

The data also showed Richardson tried to steer away before the impact.

A test of Howe's blood found difluoroethane, indicating he had been using an inhalant before the collision, Pence said.

Each of Howe's charges is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The next step in his case is an arraignment, but a date for the hearing has not been set.

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