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UPDATED: Local restaurant owner charged in fatal ATV crash

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By Molly Haines

The following story was updated at 2 p.m., Wednesday, June 26.

A local restaurant owner and former Owen County court security officer was arrested Friday following a fatal ATV accident near Monterey.

Mario Chavez, 42, was charged with first-degree assault, a Class B felony, and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, a Class B misdemeanor.

Emergency personnel responded to the intersection of Worth and Taylor streets in Monterey around 4:30 p.m., after a female passenger — later identified as 73-year-old Patricia Karsner — was reported to have been severely injured during the single-vehicle collision on Old Landing Road.

When an Owen County sheriff's deputy arrived on the scene, Karsner was being loaded into an ambulance to be taken to a nearby emergency helicopter landing zone, according to Chavez’s arrest citation.

The deputy then asked an unnamed female who was operating the ATV — which belonged to Karsner — at the time of the accident. The female pointed to Chavez and said, “That man in the red shirt.”

Chavez, according to the citation, then drove a first responder vehicle to the landing zone. Following the helicopter’s departure and as emergency personnel were leaving the landing zone, Chavez explained to the deputy that he and Karsner were traveling on Old Landing Road, where Karsner had her arm out of the ATV. They then struck a brush pile near a gravel road, causing severe injuries to Karsner’s right arm and left leg. Following the accident, Chavez — according to the citation — moved the ATV from the scene of the accident on Old Landing Road to the intersection of Worth and Taylor streets.

The citation later notes that the deputy approached Chavez while he was in the passenger’s seat of an Owen County Search and Rescue vehicle, where he detected the smell of alcohol. While Chavez told the deputy he had one beer prior to the accident, a preliminary breath test revealed a blood alcohol level of .149, nearly twice the legal limit.

While it is unclear which emergency responder vehicle Chavez reportedly drove to the landing zone, Owen County EMS Administrator Dan Brenyo said Chavez did not drive an Owen County EMS vehicle “at any given time.”

Karsner died from injuries sustained in the crash at the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center later that evening, according to Kentucky State Police.

Chavez was arrested and booked at the Carroll County Detention Center around 9:11 p.m. He posted a $10,000 cash bond Sunday.

The Owen County Sheriff’s Office has turned the ongoing investigation over to KSP.

The owner of Owenton’s Casa Mexican Restaurant, Chavez was employed under former Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton where he served as a court security officer prior to a 2016 DUI charge in Shelby County.

Following the charge — which was later expunged — Chavez was fired from his Franklin County position and subsequently hired by Owen County Sheriff Mark Bess, serving as a part-time court security officer at the Owen County Judicial Center. Earlier this year, he left the Owen County office and was rehired as a court security officer in Franklin County under newly-elected Sheriff Chris Quire.

The State-Journal reported Monday that Chavez had been fired from the Franklin County position following the arrest.

“It looks bad — but if you think about it he was working part-time for $13 an hour, he was qualified, and he was willing to help with translation for other deputies,” Quire told the State-Journal. “I guess we shouldn’t have given him a second chance, but he did what he needed to do and got the charge expunged. We looked, and he was doing good at the time. It just turned out bad.”

Quire told the newspaper he had been trying to contact Chavez since he posted bond to get his side of the story, but the calls went without response.

While it is unclear whether authorities will pursue upgraded charges, Commonwealth Attorney James Crawford told the newspaper he is waiting to review the KSP report.

“I don’t have a full investigative report from KSP,” Crawford told the State-Journal. “When I get it in, as I routinely do for every case, I’ll study it and decide whether to take it to the grand jury.”

Chavez is expected in Owen County District Court Friday.