DPS officer stops wrong-way driver with crash

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- An officer with the Arizona Department of Public Safety stopped a wrong-way driver Monday night by crashing into the wrong-way driver's vehicle.

It happened at about 11 p.m. in the southbound lanes of Interstate 17 near the Carefree Highway -- State Route 74.

A DPS spokesman said there were 29 calls to 911 about the wrong-way driver who was going north in the southbound HOV (carpool) lane.

A DPS officer was already in the area on an unrelated traffic stop. The officer was able to get ahead of the driver and conduct a traffic break.

"That officer was in a great position to observe that vehicle that was coming head-on," said Raul Garcia with the Arizona Department of Public Safety. "And from that traffic break immediately struck the driver's side of that wrong-way vehicle, disabling that vehicle. Our patrol vehicle ended up coming to final rest after crashing into a concrete barrier wall."

The officer struck the wrong-way driver's vehicle, nearly head-on, hitting the left side with his patrol car. The wrong-way vehicle spun around across several traffic lanes before it rolled to a stop with further assistance from the same officer.

"Our officer had to now put his vehicle in park, get out of his patrol car that he had just come to rest into the concrete wall and had to yell and help that woman stop that vehicle so we're grateful that we don't have any serious injuries here tonight," Garcia said.

The officer was able to get the wrong-way driver off the road before she caused any crashes. Nobody was hurt.

Southbound Interstate 17 was closed for several hours overnight.

The driver, 44-year-old Carmelina F. Long, was taken into custody for an extreme DUI investigation. Long was booked into the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office jail for aggravated assault, endangerment and criminal damage.

Long had a blood alcohol content of greater than .20, according to court documents.

Officers said Long had red, watery eyes, incoherent speech, and a strong odor of alcohol on her breath. She could not stand without swaying and had difficulty walking.

She refused to submit to a breathalyzer test so she was forced to give a blood sample.

Bond was set at $5,000.

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