TRI-CITIES -- The crowds that packed the Columbia River shoreline this weekend were well-behaved, but drunken drivers out on the roadways kept Tri-City law enforcement busy as usual during Water Follies.
Washington State Patrol troopers had 22 DUI arrests and responded to the same number of collisions during a 72-hour period, according to Lt. Roger Wilbur.
Five of those wrecks were alcohol related, the most significant one Saturday night when a speeding car reportedly slammed into the back of another car, sending it into the median where it rolled before stopping on its top.
Erik William Votendahl, 42, walked away from the Interstate 182 scene and was arrested hours later after calling police from the lobby of a Richland hotel, court records show. He appeared Monday in Franklin County Superior Court, where Judge Cameron Mitchell set bail at $15,000 on an investigative hold for vehicular assault and hit-and-run with injury, both felonies.
Victim Karl K. Weitz, 47, of Pasco, suffered a broken leg and pelvis and was treated at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland.
The 46th annual Water Follies drew "70,000-plus over the three days," event director Kathy Powell said on Monday. The 2010 tally was 65,000 people.
Powell said she was encouraged and excited to see a number of young people enjoying the event, instead of just the usual unlimited hydroplane fanbase from the middle-age generation.
"This weekend really turned out to exceed our expectations and was very positive ...," she said. "I was really tickled. It's cool to see everybody come and fill up the park. You know that your hard work throughout the year is paying off, and that's rewarding."
Organizers opted to go with a new security company this year, and Powell said it was clear that those workers understood this is a "shining star event" for the Tri-Cities and the importance of being professional and polite to all visitors. Powell said she already has received positive feedback about Staff Pro out of Spokane, noting that they worked well with law enforcement and people enjoyed being greeted in the morning with a smile and a happy face as they arrived at the park.
Inside Columbia Park, Kennewick police reported arresting one person for a domestic violence case and citing a few others, including a couple that was found having sex in their car in a parking lot, said Sgt. Ken Lattin. Out on the streets, officers handled seven DUIs over the weekend.
Pasco Capt. Jim Raymond said his officers made three DUI arrests. Otherwise, it was quiet along the Pasco shoreline with "just fun-loving people all around," he said.
Troopers saw an increase in collisions from 17 last year, but four fewer DUI arrests between Friday morning and early Monday, Wilbur said. About three or four of the total 22 DUI arrests were of motorists leaving Kennewick's Columbia Park, he said.
"It was definitely one of those weekends where there's a substantial amount of people in the area and that requires utilization of all our resources throughout the weekend. We made scheduling adjustments so we had enough people all out," Wilbur said. "We saw a noticeable increase in the volume of traffic on the roadways, but that's Water Follies weekend. Every year seems to be like that."
In the case of the vehicular assault, court documents show that Votendahl was westbound at 9:45 p.m. on I-182 near Road 100 when his 2007 Pontiac struck a 1958 Ford Fairlane from behind. While the Ford rolled in the median, Votendahl reportedly drove his Pontiac about three-quarters of a mile over the Benton County line before stopping on the shoulder and running away.
State patrol dispatch got a call about four hours later from Votendahl, who was in the lobby of the Shilo Inn and requesting contact.
Votendahl, of Richland, told troopers "he thought he hit a parked vehicle in the middle lane that had no lights on," documents said. "The defendant advised that he must have blacked out because he just woke up on the bike path behind the Shilo Inn."
Votendahl allegedly said he'd had "a good dinner" at a restaurant in south Richland and was on his way home when the crash occurred.
The Pontiac's keys were in his pocket, and he is the registered owner, court documents said.
Troopers noticed that Votendahl had a red nose, likely from the air bag deployment, and detected watery eyes, "a strong and obvious odor of intoxicants on his breath when he spoke" and that he was swaying from side to side during field-sobriety tests, documents said. He allegedly claimed that he had nothing to drink and hasn't had an alcoholic drink for months.
He also had a scrape on his left knee, a hole in his jeans and dirt covering his left arm and the back of his coat, documents said.
Votendahl was taken to Kadlec for a blood draw before being booked into the Franklin County jail. Prosecutors have until Wednesday afternoon to file charges against him if he is still in custody.
Lanes on Interstate 182 between roads 68 and 100 will be closed today between 9 a.m. and noon for the State Patrol investigation.
State Department of Transportation crews will close the westbound left and center lanes first, reopen them, and then close the right lane.
Signs and orange cones will direct drivers through the area. Drivers should expect some delays, according to the state patrol.
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org