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Groton man charged with manslaughter, DUI in fatal Stonington crash

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Stonington — State police on Wednesday accused a Groton man of driving on the wrong side of the highway with almost double the legal limit of blood alcohol content, leading to a head-on crash that killed two in Stonington in December.

Jose Noriega-Gonzalez, 38, of 57 South Road, drove a Lexus north in the southbound lanes of Interstate 95 when the vehicle crashed into a Toyota Prius about a mile east of Exit 91 at 12:45 a.m. on Dec. 16, state police said. The collision came just seconds after a witness reported a gray sedan traveling the wrong way between exits 90 and 91, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

The crash was one of three fatal wrong-way accidents in Stonington since 2010.

The impact trapped the drivers and three total passengers in the vehicles, state police said. Emergency crews cut away the vehicles to extricate everyone inside before providing medical treatment.

Authorities pronounced Noriega-Gonzalez's passenger, 37-year-old Eric Ramakers of Phoenix, and a passenger in the Prius, 26-year-old Lorna Valcin of Braintree, Mass., dead at the scene.

Helicopter and ambulance crews took Noriega-Gonzalez, the Prius driver Stephane Francois, 26, of Brockton, Mass., and another Prius passenger, Jerome Aullychad, 26, of Elmont, N.Y., to Rhode Island Hospital with severe injuries.

Noriega-Gonzalez, a U.S. Navy petty officer second class assigned to an administrative support role at the Naval Branch Health Clinic in Groton, had attended a party in Providence for a sailor about to be transferred, according to the warrant. Ramakers was a hospital corpsman first class who'd served at the Groton health clinic since 2017, the Navy Times reported.

Later that night, multiple witnesses who'd attended the party or other Providence establishments with Noriega-Gonzalez or Ramakers became concerned about traffic backed up due to the accident and called police. Noriega-Gonzalez had at least two drinks that night, according to witnesses and his statements to police. Paramedics at the crash scene smelled alcohol on his breath.

In the hospital days after the crash, he told state police that the last thing he remembered was paying the bill at Viva Mexico Cantina Grill in Providence, where he said he had "a large meal, a beer and a shot of Don Julio tequila." Results of blood tests showed he had an elevated blood alcohol content of 0.15 percent; the legal limit is 0.08 percent.

Noriega-Gonzalez faces two counts of second-degree manslaughter with a vehicle, two counts of second-degree assault with a vehicle, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, first-degree reckless endangerment and driving the wrong way.

He is being held on $1.5 million bond; a condition of potential release is that he neither possess nor consume any alcohol. He is due in court in New London on Sept. 10.

Base spokesman Chris Zendan said Noriega-Gonzalez entered the Navy in 2008 and has served at the Groton health clinic since 2015. He remains on active duty and the Navy "continues to support state and local authorities, and can't speculate on any future actions or outcomes," Zendan said.

b.kail@theday.com

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to correct the name of Jose Noriega-Gonzalez.

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