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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 13:47 EDT

Cops: Hancock Drunk at Time of Accident

May 4, 2007

By BETSY TAYLOR

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.

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, 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 was not hurt.

“If you drink, don’t drive,” Mokwa said. “Use a taxi. Have a designated driver. Call a friend.”

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., recalling the pitcher as a goodhearted prankster. Among the mourners were Hancock’s teammates, coaches, manager Tony La Russa and general manager Walt Jocketty. Hancock was buried Wednesday in rural Itawamba County, Miss.

Hancock made his major league debut in September 2002 and played for four major league clubs. He went 3-3 with a 4.09 ERA in 62 regular-season appearances for the Cardinals last season, leading the bullpen in innings, and pitched in three postseason games.

He was 0-1 with a 3.55 ERA in eight games this season.

Hancock joined the Cardinals in spring training last season after Cincinnati released him for violating a weight clause in his contract. He also pitched for Boston and Philadelphia.

The Cardinals postponed a home game the day of the accident against Chicago and haven’t won since. They were swept in a three-game series in Milwaukee and had a day off Thursday.

Three days before the fatal wreck, Hancock was involved in another accident. The front bumper of his SUV was torn off in a crash with a tractor-trailer that happened at 5:30 a.m. on April 26 in Sauget, Ill., when Hancock moved forward into an intersection to make a left turn.

Hancock’s death marked the second time in five years the Cardinals have mourned the loss of a teammate. Pitcher Darryl Kile was found dead in his Chicago hotel room in 2002. Kile, 33, died of a coronary artery blockage.

Associated Press Writer Jim Salter contributed to this report.