Prosecutor: Alleged drunk driver caused Berkley bus to crash

Crime

TAUNTON, Mass. (WPRI) — A Rhode Island woman arrested for drunk driving at the scene of a school bus crash in Berkley over the weekend and was determined to have “set the accident in motion,” a prosecutor revealed in court Monday afternoon.

Christy Gilpatrick, 27 of Warren, was driving a Subaru and initially charged with OUI – 2nd offense at the scene of the bus crash Saturday night, where police said several adults and children were hurt.

Monday, Gilpatrick was also charged with OUI liquor with serious injury, negligent operation of a motor vehicle and a marked lanes violation.

Bristol County Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Letourneau said at Gilpatrick’s arraignment in Taunton that she was driving on Route 24 South and first hit a black car in front of her before spinning out of control.

The school bus, driving in another lane, was “unable to avoid the Subaru,” Letourneau said, and both the bus and the Subaru went off the road into a ditch.

The school bus flipped multiple times, Letourneau said. Officers arriving on scene found upwards of 20 adults, children and infants sitting on the grass.

Police said the First Student school bus was full of families and returning to Tiverton from a trip to La Salette Shrine in Attleboro.

“It flipped two or three times,” said Pedro Correia, who was driving the black Nissan allegedly hit by Gilpatrick before the bus crash. “It was bad.”

Correia said he and a friend stopped and helped some of the passengers get out of the bus. He said there were multiple infants and young children with injuries.

“I helped them the best I could,” Correia said. 

According to the Massachusetts State Police report filed with Taunton District Court, multiple passengers sustained serious injuries including broken ribs, a broken jaw, crushed vertebrae and more.

Gilpatrick failed a field sobriety test, according to police, and had a blood alcohol content of .15% during a breath test. 

Fiore Porreca, Gilpatrick’s court-appointed attorney, said she was cooperative with police and stayed at the scene, even comforting and “embracing” the injured children on the side of the road.

A judge set Gilpatrick’s bail at $2,500 cash and ordered her to have alcohol screenings, attend 5 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings per week and not to drive while the case is pending.

Her father Charles Gilpatrick, who drove up from Delaware for the arraignment, briefly told reporters outside of the courtroom that he was “praying for everyone involved.”

Jen Biddinger, a spokesperson for Ohio-based First Student, said the bus was being driven by a First Student employee who chartered it for a holiday outing with family and friends. She said the driver was placed on leave, which is standard procedure, and there would be an internal investigation into the crash.

“There is nothing more important than the safety of our employees and the passengers they transport,” Biddinger said.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for the crash victims. So far, the page has raised more than $1,000.

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