A Stanford University visiting scholar who died in a car crash on rain-slicked Middlefield Road Dec. 18 had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit and was driving at 50 to 60 mph on the 25 mph road, according to Palo Alto police.
Rune Thode Nielsen, 25, was driving southbound on Middlefield when his vehicle struck a sign on the west side of the street, then slammed into a tree and ricocheted off a parked vehicle before coming to rest in the front yard of a home near the intersection at Hawthorne Avenue at 12:50 a.m., according to police. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.
The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner's Office told Palo Alto police investigators that Nielsen's blood-alcohol level was 0.212, according to police spokeswoman Lt. Sandra Brown. The legal limit is 0.08.
Police investigators also determined Nielsen was traveling at approximately 50-60 mph.
"This is determined by the damage to the vehicle (crush), the damage to the tree and the resting location of the vehicle. Fire personnel were on scene and tried life-saving measures to no avail. He was apparently at a party earlier in the evening and was observed drinking," Brown said.
Jessie Montano, an administrative-support officer at the medical examiner-coroner's office, said the case is still open and he could not comment on the findings. No autopsy was performed but toxicology tests were done on Nielsen, he said.
Nielsen, a Danish national from Copenhagen, studied nanotechnology and "had a huge network of friends," a source said after his death.
He was a resident of the St. Claire Gardens neighborhood on Palo Alto.