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Confused driver suspected of DUI hospitalized after crashing into sign on highway

A Tavares man was hospitalized after being found asleep in a running vehicle on a highway median and crashing into a sign when awakened.

Mariano Christopher Taclay
Mariano Christopher Taclay

An officer observed a silver Buick sedan parked facing west in the grass median portion of 10128 U.S. Hwy. 441 in front of a U-Haul business around 9:20 p.m. June 28, according to an arrest report from the Leesburg Police Department. He investigated the suspicious nature of the vehicle, which was running while brakes were being applied by the driver. 

Upon approaching the passenger-side window, the officer observed the driver, 45-year-old Mariano Christopher Taclay, unresponsive behind the wheel. The officer tried getting his attention by repeatedly banging on the driver’s side door and window. He could see Taclay breathing, but he was slumped to his right side with his eyes closed, the report said. 

After several attempts at banging on the window and announcing his presence, Taclay slowly became conscious and then was startled as he sat up and looked at the officer. He stepped on the accelerator while the officer was still at the driver’s side window. This caused Taclay to collide with a posted highway patrol sign which ultimately stopped the vehicle, the report said. 

The officer could hear Taclay try to accelerate again while hitting the sign. He was able to get Taclay’s attention, and he put the vehicle in park, the report said. 

The officer opened the vehicle’s door and observed Taclay to be physically confused with droopy eyelids and pinpoint pupils. He asked him to turn the vehicle off several times. After frantically looking around his vehicle for the keys, which were still in the ignition, he eventually found them, turned the vehicle off and handed them to the officer to be placed on top of the vehicle, the report said. 

When the officer asked Taclay how he got into the grass median, his speech was unintelligible. When asked where he was and what city he was in, he stated several times he was in Orlando. He was unable to explain how he got onto the grass median in that part of Leesburg even after the officer told him where he was. The officer also requested to see his driver’s license, which he did not seem to understand, instead searching aimlessly for it in several places, the report said. 

Because of Taclay’s apparent drowsy and abnormal behavior in addition to the accident, EMS responded to the scene. A staff member advised that his pupils were pinpoint, which was indicative of opioid and illicit substance use, the report said. 

When asked questions regarding his whereabouts and the events that transpired during the time the officer made contact, Taclay stated he was still in Orlando and was not aware he hit the sign. He was driving home but could not explain where home was or where he was coming from. He was still barely conscious and responded abnormally to the evaluation. Throughout the duration of the officer’s contact and the EMS evaluation, he maintained slurred speech and severe drowsiness, the report said. 

EMS then advised Taclay would be transported to UF Health Hospital for further treatment. Prior to exiting the vehicle, he had to be asked several times to step out due to him acting confused at the demand. When he finally got out, he was slow to stand and immediately unsteady, swaying back and forth. His body showed signs of rigidity, the report said. 

Because of his apparent lack of balance, EMS staff had to assist Taclay with walking and laying on the stretcher. Another officer tried to conduct an evaluation for nystagmus of the eyes, or rapid involuntary movement, but Taclay was unable to follow instructions or keep his eyes open, the report said. 

Taclay was searched for items of potential hazard to EMS and attending hospital staff before being transported. As a result, the officer found a small clear plastic bag containing a white, powder-like substance in his left front pants pocket. The .53 grams of substance was later tested with positive results for cocaine, the report said. 

After being taken to the hospital, EMS staff advised they administered a of Narcan to Taclay during transport, to which he had a positive reaction. He immediately became more awake, alert and was answering questions more coherently, the report said. 

While at the hospital, Taclay spontaneously uttered several times that he was actually trying to drive home to his residence in Tavares. However, he was still unable to state exactly how he ended up in Leesburg, particularly on the median in the middle of the highway. He also had difficulty remembering the events of the crash and the officer’s initial contact with him, the report said. 

Taclay made no mention of the substance the officer found in his pocket. He also advised hospital staff he was on several prescribed medications, and he may have taken the wrong dose or mixed several medications at the same time, going against his prescription instructions, the report said. 

Taclay ultimately did not want to be evaluated further by hospital staff and informed them he did not have any injuries or need treatment. He was subsequently discharged from the hospital and placed under arrest. While being handcuffed, he still showed signs of drowsiness and rigidity in his body without resisting. He was then brought to the LPD to complete booking procedures, the report said. 

While at the LPD’s booking facility, an officer informed Taclay of the implied consent warning for a breath test and urine sample. He complied with both tests. His blood alcohol content tested negative for any alcohol in his system. A urine sample was taken and submitted in a supplemental report. He was also read his rights but refused to speak with officers, the report said. 

Taclay was charged with possession of cocaine and DUI (accident/property damage). The New York native was taken to Lake County Jail and released after posting $4,500 bond. 

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