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Man going to prison for fifth drunken driving offense

A South Range man was sentenced Friday in Douglas County Court to 48 months in prison for a drunk driving incident last summer that injured five people.

Dennis Helmer Amundson, 59, pleaded guilty in February to his fifth offense of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. Additional counts of fifth offense operating a motor vehicle with a prohibited alcohol concentration, causing injury while operating under the influence and causing injury while operating with a prohibited alcohol concentration were dismissed.

Judge Michael Lucci sentenced Amundson to 48 months in prison -- 18 months initial confinement and 30 months of extended supervision. As conditions of his release, he must maintain absolute sobriety, submit a DNA sample and undergo both a chemical dependency evaluation and psychological evaluation. Amundson must also pay $1,675.65 restitution and a fine of $600 plus court costs. His driver's license was revoked for 36 months.

The charges stemmed from an August accident at the intersection of U.S. Highway 53 and County Highway B. Amundson's truck pulled into the median of Highway 53 and, without stopping at the yield sign, crossed the northbound lane directly in the path of an oncoming car, according to the Douglas County Sheriff's Department accident report. The car slammed into the side of the truck, causing injury to the four occupants -- a mother and her three children -- according to the report. The crash pushed Amundson's truck sideways into another vehicle that was stopped at the stop sign along County Highway B, injuring the driver, the report stated.

According to court records, Amundson had a 0.268 blood alcohol concentration at the time, more than three times the legal limit for driving.

"He has got to be taken off our highways," wrote Tom and Gloria McGiffin of Rice Lake in a victim impact statement. "He is a menace to society with his drunk driving."

The McGiffins are the parents of the woman who was driving the car and the grandparents of the injured children. They said their daughter has been so emotionally scarred by the incident that she hasn't been able to drive past the intersection. As a result, the family was unable to spend Christmas together or gather for other events, the McGiffins said.

"We are indirectly prisoners of Mr. Amundson's habitual drunk driving," they wrote.

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