A car salesman was killed when a potential buyer, allegedly under the influence of drugs, took the vehicle for a reckless, high-speed test drive and crashed the vehicle into a tree, The L.A. Times is reporting.
The car salesman, identified by Fox News as 43-year-old Warren Smale, was working at CarMax in the Los Angeles suburb of Ontario on Tuesday when he and a customer, 28-year-old Alex Mark Demetro of Union City, went for a test drive in a Corvette.
New post: ”
Used car salesman killed after ‘motorist on test drive slammed Corvette into a tree at 70mph’
— Lee Levy (@thekingleelevy) February 24, 2016
Investigators are still trying to piece together what happened during that fatal test drive. But several witnesses told KTLA (Los Angeles) that they observed the Corvette going at least 70 MPH. The test drive ended when the buyer crashed the car into a tree.
The car salesman was taken to San Antonio Regional Hospital in critical condition, but he later died from his injuries.
The customer, Demetro, was was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and felony driving under the influence of drugs, according to Jeff Higbee of the Ontario Police Department. According to KTLA, alcohol does not appear to have been a factor in the fatal crash, but investigators are looking into whether or not drugs played a role.
In a statement, CarMax spokesperson Catherine Gryp expressed the company’s condolences to the car salesman’s family. (CarMax is a chain of used car dealerships, with 147 locations throughout the U.S.)
“Our hearts and prayers go out to our associate’s family. CarMax is working closely with the authorities on the investigation.”
Crash witnesses, and coworkers of the car salesman, were quick to express their shock and grief at what had happened.
Co-worker Lydia Garrett said that going on test drives with potential customers is part of every salesman’s job at CarMax, and described Smale as a good friend whom she enjoyed working with.
“It’s a part of our job, the test drives. I know Warren… he probably had no clue, I’m sure… He was the guy at work that it didn’t matter what kind of day you were having, he was there for you. He would make you laugh. He would make you smile.”
Witness Paul Romo said the car salesman’s death reminded him of how life can be unpredictable.
“It kind of made me realize life is very fragile. That guy had no idea today would be his last day when he showed up to work today.”
Although taking a car for a test drive is usually a mundane necessity for both the customer and the salesperson, there have been instances where things have gone awry.
Car salesman David Teves, speaking to Mental Floss earlier this month, said that salesmen routinely “risk life and limb” when going for a test drive with a customer.
“I once went for a ride with a drug dealer in Oakland who took me on a test drive to collect drug money. Any test drive when you come back alive is a successful test drive.”
Customers can also be at risk from predatory salespeople when out for a test drive: in December, 2015, according to WMCA (Memphis), car salesman Dameetri Hester was taken to jail for allegedly fondling a female customer and trying to convince her to have sex with him. When he was arrested, he was found in possession of illegal drugs.
The customer whose test drive killed car salesman Warren Smale remains in jail on bond.
[Image via Shutterstock/cleanfotos]