BEIJING (AP) – A court in southwestern China has sentenced a man to death for a drunken driving accident that killed four people, in what state media said Friday was a first for the country.

Sun Weiming, 30, was found guilty of endangering public safety and sentenced to death Thursday, several state-run newspapers said.

Sun was drunk and speeding in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, last December when he struck four other cars, killing four people and seriously injuring one, reports said. He was also driving without a license.

Several media outlets, including the Tianfu Morning Post and the Sichuan News Network, said the case marked the first time in China that a person has been given the death penalty for endangering public safety by driving drunk.

The claim could not be immediately confirmed.

China imposes capital punishment more than any other country. Amnesty International reported earlier this year that China put at least 1,718 people to death in 2008. The penalty is used even for nonviolent crimes such as graft or tax evasion.

Tianfu reported that Sun told the court he would appeal and begged the judge for a chance to start a new life.

“At the time of the accident, I was completely dazed from drinking and completely unaware and I did not intentionally cross the double line (into oncoming traffic),” he was quoted as saying.

The paper paraphrased the judge, whose name was not given, as saying Sun’s decision to drive without a license showed his contempt for traffic regulations. The fact that he was fleeing a crash when the fatal collision occurred also showed he was acting intentionally, he said.

Sun had drunk “large quantities” of a strong Chinese spirit at a relative’s lunchtime birthday party on the day of the accident, Tianfu said, and he had a blood alcohol level of 0.13, or 135.8 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. China’s legal limit is 0.08.

A duty officer who answered the telephone at the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court confirmed the trial took place this week but could not give any details or confirm the sentence. He referred questions to the court’s public affairs office, where the phone rang unanswered.

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