Driver in crash that killed CarMax salesman had a suspended license, police say

The man who allegedly smashed a Corvette into a tree during a test drive, fatally injuring a CarMax salesman, was driving on a suspended license, police said Wednesday.

The driver, 28-year-old Alex Mark Demetro of Union City, was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and felony driving under the influence of drugs, said Sgt. Jeff Higbee of the Ontario Police Department.

Demetro was cooperating with investigators, police said.

Demetro was released from a San Bernardino County jail shortly before 5 a.m. Wednesday after posting $100,000 bail, according to jail records. He has not been charged.

It's unclear why Demetro's driver's license was suspended or when the suspension occurred. He could not be reached for comment and it's unknown if he has an attorney. 

At the time of the crash, which happened about 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, Demetro was "on more than one prescription medication," Higbee said. Investigators are awaiting the results of toxicology tests before releasing further details, he said.

The crash occurred on Mercedes Lane near Concours Street in Ontario. Witnesses told police that the driver lost control of the Corvette and rammed into a tree, Higbee said. Witnesses told KTLA-TV Channel 5 that the vehicle appeared to reach speeds of up to 70 mph.

Both men were wearing seat belts. 

The salesman, 43-year-old Warren Smale of Montclair, was taken to a hospital in critical condition, according to the San Bernardino County coroner's office. He was later pronounced dead.

Smale had worked in CarMax's Ontario store since June 2013, according to a statement provided by the company. He is the first CarMax salesperson to die during a test drive, the company statement said.

The company did not specifically respond to inquiries from The Times about whether its procedure for checking customers before a test drive is under review.

Under CarMax's current procedure, the company inspects a customer's driver's license to verify it matches the identity of the customer and is not expired. Before a test drive, the company also uses a scanner to determine whether the license is a valid state-issued ID and not the work of a forger. CarMax also keeps a copy of the license on file for record-keeping purposes, the company statement said. 

"In addition, CarMax has procedures and personal safety guidelines that encourage associates to seek a manager's assistance if they have concerns for their safety at any time," the company statement said.

The crash left family and friends of Smale saddened and stunned. His father, Dennis Smale, told KABC-TV Channel 7 that he had harsh words for the driver of the Corvette.

"There's no forgiveness. When you take drugs, you know what you're doing," Dennis Smale said. 

At the crash site, friends and colleagues held a prayer circle for Smale and shared memories of him.

“He was a good human being. He was a very loving, uplifting person,” Robert Sotela of Rancho Cucamonga told the San Bernardino Sun

CarMax said in a statement Tuesday night that it was working closely with police in the investigation.

For breaking news in California, follow @MattHjourno.

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