MASSENA - A 24-year-old Potsdam woman had bail set at $2,500 cash Thursday morning after she was arraigned on felony driving while ability impaired by drugs/alcohol and criminal mischief counts following two accidents late Wednesday night.
Massena Village Police said Kirsten L. Garner of 24 Waverly St., Potsdam, was charged with the felony DWAI under Leandra’s Law. Her 10-month-old daughter was in her vehicle when she was involved in two accidents reported within 10 minutes of each other.
She was also charged with a felony count of third-degree criminal mischief after allegedly striking a Massena Electric Department utility pole in front of the Pease & Gustafson law offices on Main Street at Andrews Street. The sheared off telephone pole damaged a flower pot and a tree after the crash at 11:10 p.m. Minutes later, her vehicle struck a guide rail on state Route 56 in the town of Louisville, and her 2008 Rav 4 burst into flames.
Village police also charged Garner with two counts of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance after a Lyrica pill and a spoon containing a white substance that reportedly tested positive for heroin were located in her purse. She was also charged with endangering the welfare of a child and second-degree reckless endangerment.
Village police ticketed Garner for failure to keep right, leaving the scene of an accident, reckless driving, third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and driving across hazardous markings.
Massena-based state police additionally charged Garner with a misdemeanor count of reckless driving, driving on the shoulder of a limited access highway, third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and failure to use designated lane following their investigation into the Route 56 accident reported at approximately 11:20 p.m.
She was arraigned before Massena Town Justice Gerald P. Sharlow and sent to the St. Lawrence County Correctional Facility with bail set at $2,500 cash or $5,000 bond.
Ptl. Travis P. MacDonald, in a statement included in court papers, said village police received a report of the accident at 11:12 p.m. on Main Street. He said a review of a surveillance cameras in the downtown corridor showed a light-colored RAV 4 traveling southbound on Main strike the utility pole, back up and then continue driving southbound on Main Street.
He said police learned the vehicle had taken a right-hand turn at state Route 37. He said he took Andrews Street to Route 37 and observed liquid that had been sprayed on the roadway on Route 37 onto Route 56.
“I followed this liquid down a couple of miles on state Route 56, where I then observed this same vehicle involved in another accident to the right side of the road and engulfed in flames,” Ptl. MacDonald said in his statement, noting he saw a woman holding an infant approximately 10 feet behind the burning SUV. “Garner stated she was coming from a friend’s house near Violi’s Restaurant (and) was driving home.”
He said Garner appeared to have poor motor coordination skills during their initial conversation.
Ptl. Corey M. Francis, in his statement, said she also had a delayed reaction to questions she was being asked and slurred speech.
“... she had a hard time keeping her eyes open during her conversation with her. Kirsten was unaware of the circumstances that led up to this point of the evening,” Ptl. Francis said.
Garner and her daughter were later transported to Massena Memorial Hospital by Massena Rescue. Police said Garner’s only visible injury was a cut lip.
Ptl. MacDonald said he ran a few field sobriety tests on Garner while she was at the hospital. He said she passed the finger count and alphabet tests before failing the count test and then refusing to perform any further field tests. The village patrolman said she also stated she would not cooperate if a drug recognition expert responded to the scene.
“I further observed Garner having what appeared to be a fresh track mark on her left arm, left from recently using a needle,” Ptl. MacDonald wrote in his statement. “While speaking with Garner ..., she kept falling asleep and had to be woken up.”