The wine tour van driver shepherding out-of-state visitors to Healdsburg-area wineries failed as designated driver when his passengers called for help, saying the man was weaving as he drove them on Highway 101 and had nearly hit a big rig, the CHP said Monday.
Eugene Cremen, 60, of Napa was arrested on suspicion of DUI after a day of taking eight Minnesota and Ohio visitors to area wineries in a Napa Valley Wine Tours van. A preliminary blood-alcohol test showed Cremen’s level was about three times the legal 0.08-percent limit. As a hired bus driver, however, Cremen fell under jurisdiction of a July 2018 law that drivers with a level of 0.04 or higher are considered DUI, according to CHP Officer Kimberly Lemons.
On Friday, Cremen’s passengers had wrapped up stops in Dry Creek Valley about 5:30 p.m. when they headed back to their bus and found their driver passed out.
“They noticed he was slumped over the wheel and they had a hard time waking him,” said Lemons, CHP spokeswoman.
The passengers awakened him and they got underway. Within minutes they were telling him to pull over and dialing 911, recounting for dispatchers how the man struggled to keep to his lane and had almost crashed, Lemons said.
After several minutes, the driver stopped along the southbound Highway 101 offramp to Old Redwood Highway in Healdsburg where CHP officers found the tour van.
Officers suspected the man was intoxicated, investigated him for suspected DUI and arrested him. There were no alcohol containers in the vehicle and officers suspected he’d kept the drink in a Thermos, Lemons said.
Lemons said Cremen had a prior DUI arrest in the last decade.
Passengers were picked up by a ride-sharing service. Lemons credited them with trying to get him to stop and calling for help. “They easily could have saved a critical incident,” she said.