Dale Ellis In Car Crash -- Arrested On Suspicion Of Dwi

Seattle SuperSonic Dale Ellis was injured in a one-car accident this morning and arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and reckless driving, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Ellis was in satisfactory condition at Harborview Medical Center with a collapsed lung and three broken ribs.

A patrol spokesman said Ellis was driving his 1989 Mercedes-Benz on the Mercer Street northbound on-ramp to Interstate 5 at 2 a.m. when his car veered left, into the side that feeds the express lanes.

The car hit a collapsible barrier in the ``Y'' that separates the express lane from I-5's regular lanes, veered across a lane and struck the metal hinge that controls the crossarms stretching across the express lanes, according to Trooper Cadet Dan Johnson. The collision left heavy damage on the passenger side of the black, two-seat car, shattering the window and causing the door to be pushed in about one foot.

Lt. Hans Kwast of the State Patrol said Ellis was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and reckless driving.

A Harborview spokesperson said Ellis was taken about 6:30 this morning from the emergency room to the regular surgical floor, where he will undergo more examinations. His condition was upgraded from serious to satisfactory, but the club predicts he will be unable to play again for six weeks.

``He's expected to have a full recovery,'' Sonic President Bob Whitsitt said. ``It's painful, but it's not something he'll be in the hospital with for two months.''

The hospital spokesperson described Ellis as ``awake and alert'' but said he has a chest tube in his lung to drain blood that has accumulated there. There are no plans for surgery.

It was not known whether Ellis, 29, was wearing a seat belt.

Damage to his car is estimated at $20,000.

The State Patrol completed its investigation this morning, with charges expected to be filed early next week by the county prosecutor's office. For first-time offenders, a driving while intoxicated conviction carries a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The mandatory minimum penalty is one day in jail, $250 in fines, court costs of about $150 and a revocation of driving privileges for 90 days.

Records show Ellis has had at least nine moving violations in King County the past three years, including five speeding violations - a history King County Deputy Prosecutor Mark Larson said may worsen Ellis' penalty if he were convicted. Larson said a trial ``probably won't come up for another two to three months.''

On Nov. 17, 1987, Ellis crashed a 1978 BMW sedan into a divider at the Dearborn Street exit off southbound I-5 about midnight and then abandoned it. The car was on loan from an auto-repair company that was fixing his Jaguar. Ellis reportedly explained that the car's steering didn't respond properly when he tried to make a last-minute maneuver.

Coach Bernie Bickerstaff refused comment today.

Whitsitt said he and Bickerstaff would sit down after today's practice and evaluate how to replace Ellis in the Sonics' lineup.

Ellis, an all-star guard, scored 29 points, including 11 in the final quarter, last night to lead the Sonics to a victory over the Dallas Mavericks.