Bluffton, SC (WSAV) – An aspiring professional golfer facing felony charges in the deadly crash on May River Road Friday afternoon was arrested five days earlier for driving under the influence.
Nikolai K. Wheeler, 27, told authorities he’d had half a bottle of vodka and too much Xanax after the crash that claimed the life of beloved Bluffton realtor Cullen Mieczkowski.
His Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level, taken about three hours after the crash, was .256%, which is more than three times the legal limit of .08%, according to the Bluffton Police Department.
Wheeler prompted a multi-agency search when he fled on foot into the woods after the crash that happened around 5pm Friday and closed several roads for more than three hours.
Luckily, Bluffton Police spokeswoman Joy Nelson said, a retired state trooper who witnessed the crash and briefly spoke to Wheeler before he fled was able to give a solid description on the suspect, which helped narrow the search for the team.
Monday friends continued to mourn the loss of Mieczkowski, the 34-year-old- realtor who was deemed a “true professional.”
“We were in a young professionals group with a couple chambers around here,” friend Brendan Downey said. “He was a great guy to know, always open, a great guy to talk to, very personable- just a great friend all around.”
A Gofundme page was set up to support funeral expenses and had already collected more than $13,000 by Monday evening.
Nelson noted the already “extensive” driving record of Wheeler. In Friday’s incident he’s been charged with Felony DUI-resulting in death, Felony DUI- Great Bodily Injury, Leaving the Scene Resulting in Death, Leaving the Scene Resulting in Great Bodily Injury and Driving under a Suspended License. Wheeler was denied bond and remains in the Beaufort County Detention Center.
According to online reports, Wheeler was adopted at a young age from a Russian orphanage. He reportedly was born to a 14-year-old girl who was already an alcoholic. Wheeler is also involved in news stories surrounding his adoptive father’s molestation charges, in which he is one of three people who alleged sexual abuse.