Woman Killed In DUI Crash At Horse Race Track

Updated 04/12/11 – 6:28 p.m.

CRETE, Ill. (CBS/WBBM) — A horse driver from south suburban Crete is dead, after an accident with a drunken driver on the grounds of the Balmoral Park racetrack in south suburban Crete.

Police said the man behind the wheel is the victim’s fiancé. Another woman and a horse were also injured in the accident.

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Michelle Eustis, 25, of Crete, was pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital of Cook County at 8:58 a.m. Monday, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.

Eustis, a 21-year-old woman, and a horse were on the grounds of the racetrack at 5:07 a.m., when all three were struck by a pickup truck, according to Illinois State Police Joliet District 5 Trooper Sam Heenan.

The younger woman suffered an injury to the leg and was taken to St. James Hospital and Health Care Center in Chicago Heights, state police said.

The driver of the pickup truck, Angus Lake, 41, of Riverdale, Mich., was charged with aggravated driving under the influence, state police told CBS 2.

State police say Lake and Eustis were engaged to be married.

Prosecutors said Lake drank “five or six shots” while in a barn at the Crete race track with Eustis and 21-year-old Heather France of Michigan.

The women decided to go riding bareback on a horse, prosecutors said, and Lake went looking for them in a white Dodge Ram pickup 30 minutes later.

Will County Asst. State’s Atty. Mary Fillipitch said Lake drove his truck up behind the women’s horse at 5:07 a.m. on Backstretch Road and hit his brakes hard, causing his truck to rotate and hit the horse. She said the horse suffered a severe gouge on its back, and there is damage to the right rear of Lake’s truck.

Lake’s blood-alcohol level after the accident was 0.147, Fillipitch said, which is nearly twice the legal limit. He faces four counts of aggravated DUI. Each carries up to 14 years in prison.

Will County Judge Marzell L. Richardson Jr. set Lake’s bail at $500,000 after the state’s attorney’s office asked for a bond of $1 million.

Kurt Leinweber, Lake’s public defender, called that request “way out of line.” He pointed to the damage to the rear of Lake’s vehicle to question the prosecutors’ story. “Are we to believe the defendant is driving in reverse?” Leinweber said.

Appearing via video, Lake said he could raise $5,000 for bond. But Richardson’s ruling means he would need to pay $50,000. He was also told to have no contact with France.

Fillipitch said her office didn’t find a previous felony conviction for Lake, though she said he told officers he had one in his past. Instead, she said Lake was previously convicted of misdemeanors in Michigan and Ohio.

Lake has no Illinois driver’s license, Fillipitch said, and might have recently moved to Crete from Michigan, where she said he does have a valid license.

According to the Balmoral Park Racetrack website, Lake had been the driver of 12 horses from January 1 through March 21. In those 12 starts, he failed to win one race. But he had one second-place finish, and two third-place finishes. The total purse won by horses he drove was $2,154, according to the website.

Mike Belmonte, general manager at the track, said Lake is an independent contractor who works at the park. He said Eustis is the daughter of Charles Eustis III, trainer of a horse named St. Elmo Hero, which won 25 races in a row.

“It was a quite a shock to everybody, an accident like that always is. It’s something this is unforeseen and a shock to everybody. Things go on, just a little sadder,” said Belmonte, who said racing will go on as scheduled Wednesday night.

Lake is set to appear in court next on May 3.

(The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.)

  • Moe ThePhotographer

    Can you say JOCKEY. Horses are not driven like motor vehicles.

  • Nancy J

    Excuse me, “Moe, the Photographer”, they ARE called “drivers” because at Balmoral, it is harness racing. They are NOT called jockeys, they are horse drivers.

    • KE

      Thank you for correcting him

  • KE

    The shole thing is SO SAD!

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  • Irene

    I understand he was her Boyfriend or Fiance, as I have read in different articles, but how is it “accidental” when you willingly get into a vehicle after obviously drinking too much? It’s sickening that people get slaps on the wrist when they kill someone just because they were under the influence. Everyone knows the effects of drinking and driving. How is it an accident? That poor young woman lost her life! He may not have set out to kill her but it was no accident.

  • Kristi Guiliani

    They are called Sulky’s. Never call them Jockey’s.

  • Kristi Guiliani

    They are called Sulky’s. Never call them Jockey’s!

  • jennifer sackrider- (metzgar)

    I just have to say that my heart goes out to michelle’s family and friends. I would also, like to send my regards to rick lake and all the other lake family members. I love you guys and hope that others will to continue to be the same. I just hope other dont turn away from the lakes because of the accident. I personaly know that I will always be a friend. i didnt know michelle, but this is all so sad. just try to keep your heads up and remember that with everyday it does get better even when it seem’s it wont. Love you all.


    My heart & prayers go out to Charlie Eustis & his family for the loss of his adorable daughter, Michelle. As a fan of harness racing,Balmoral Park,and St. Elmo’s Hero, I was very saddened to hear of this tragic accident.
    Carole from CT

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