Police: Alcohol, weather factors in double fatal crash

Published 3:26 pm Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Alcohol and weather were contributing factors in an accident that claimed the lives of two Niles area people over the weekend, according to the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department.

Capt. Robert Boyce, of the sheriff’s department, said an investigation has found that 29-year-old Autumn Mehl, of Berrien Springs, was driving the vehicle at the time it went into Brandywine Creek and that Mehl’s preliminary blood alcohol content was .14, nearly twice the legal limit in Michigan of .08.

Autumn Mehl

Autumn Mehl

A passenger, Steven Rough, 26, of Buchanan, also died in the crash. The cause of death for both was drowning.

Boyce said investigators were able to determine Mehl was driving based on her location in the car, the positioning of the driver’s seat and a “couple of other indications” that Boyce would not divulge.

Although police know the blood alcohol content of Rough, Boyce said they would not release that information at this time because “it is not a crime to be a drunk passenger.”

Police said Mehl and Rough were last seen at Jay’s Lounge in Niles either late Friday night or early Saturday morning.

Their bodies were found in an overturned vehicle in Brandywine Creek off Bond Street near Beeson Street in Niles Township Sunday morning. The weather was snowy at the time.

Boyce said police still do not know the exact time the vehicle went into the water.

Steven William Rough

Steven William Rough

“We are still trying to confirm that,” he said.

Boyce also said that a person with a BAC of .14 would be impaired, but it is impossible to say to what degree.

“It really depends on the individual person,” he said.

The investigation is ongoing.