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Police: Hancock drunk at time of accident

By Betsy Taylor
Associated Press Writer

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock was drunk and talking on his cell phone at the time of his fatal accident, and marijuana was found in the sport utility vehicle he was driving.

Medical examiner Michael Graham said at a news conference Friday that the 29-year-old reliever was dead "within seconds" from head injuries in the crash early Sunday on Interstate 64 in St. Louis. His vehicle hit the back of a tow truck parked on the highway to assist a driver from a previous accident.

"There is nothing at all that could have been done for him," Graham said.

Hancock's blood-alcohol level was 0.157, nearly twice Missouri's legal limit of 0.08, Graham said.

Police Chief Joe Mokwa said 8.55 grams of marijuana and a glass pipe used to smoke marijuana were found in the rented Ford Explorer. Toxicology tests to determine if drugs were in his system had not been completed.

An accident reconstruction team determined Hancock was traveling 68 mph in a 55 mph zone when his SUV struck the back of a flatbed tow truck stopped in a driving lane. Mokwa said there was no evidence Hancock tried to stop. He did swerve, but too late to avoid the collision.

Hancock was not wearing a seat belt, but Graham said the belt would not have prevented his death.

Mokwa said Hancock was speaking with a female acquaintance about baseball and baseball tickets and that the conversation ended abruptly, apparently when the accident occurred. A police report said Hancock told the female acquaintance he was on his way to another bar, and that he planned to meet her there.

Hancock, a key bullpen member on the World Series championship team last season, was driving alone.

Cardinals officials expressed sadness at the news and said the team will re-examine what it can do to warn players of the dangers of drinking and driving.

"I think it's probably a wakeup call to everybody," general manager Walt Jocketty said at a news conference at Busch Stadium. "The one thing they have to understand is they're not invincible. They have to conduct themselves and make better decisions. Unfortunately, Josh didn't make very good decisions that night."

The St. Louis Cardinals banned alcohol from the clubhouse on Friday. Manager Tony La Russa said Jocketty made the decision earlier Friday without consulting players.

La Russa said it was a largely symbolic move since players don't drink much in the clubhouse anyway.

Hancock, who pitched three innings of relief in last Saturday's 8-1 loss to the Cubs, left Busch Stadium around 6:30 p.m. and arrived about two hours later at Mike Shannon's Steaks and Seafood, a restaurant and bar owned by the former Cardinals third baseman who now is a team broadcaster. Police said Hancock left Shannon's shortly after midnight.

Around 12:30 a.m. Sunday, the tow truck came upon a disabled Geo Prism and stopped behind it with its yellow lights flashing to protect the car. A few moments later, Hancock's SUV struck the rear of the tow truck. The tow truck driver, who honked his horn to try to get Hancock's attention before the crash, was not hurt.

Graham said Hancock had severe chest injuries as well as the fatal head injuries.

An estimated 500 mourners turned out Thursday for a memorial service for Hancock in Tupelo, Miss.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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