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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, May 11, 2006

Women jailed after crash, riders hospitalized

By Holly Grosch

BERNE — A one-car crash on Saturday on Beaver Dam Road landed the driver in jail and her three passengers in the hospital.

Jennifer Wager, the driver, 35, of 15 South Main Street in Voorheesville, was charged with second-degree vehicular assault, a felony, and driving while intoxicated as well as with numerous Vehicle and Traffic Law violations.

As of Wednesday afternoon, passenger Kevin Fitch, of Albany, remained in serious condition.

On Tuesday, passenger Rachael Appleby, of East Greenbush, was still unconscious in the hospital, Albany County Sheriff Chief Deputy Craig Apple said. By Wednesday, Appleby was removed from the "serious" condition list and listed as "fair," the best possible category, said Sabina Meedham, an Albany Medical Center spokeswoman. Meedham said she couldn’t imagine a patient being listed as fair and still being in a coma.

The third passenger, William Gates, of Albany is also in fair condition. The scale runs from critical, to serious, to fair.

When the sheriff’s department arrived on the scene shortly after 6:20 p.m., it didn’t take a medical doctor to tell that Appleby was very seriously injured, Chief Deputy Apple said. Both Fitch and Appleby were transported from the accident to the hospital by helicopter. Gates was stable and taken to the hospital by a Helderberg Ambulance.

Wager who was not seriously injured, was treated at Albany Medical Center and released a short time later. She was arraigned in Berne Town Court by Judge Kenneth Bunzey and remanded to Albany County’s jail without bail.

None of the four people were wearing seat belts, Apple said.

While investigators are still calculating mathematical formulas to re-construct the accident, it is believed that the 2001 Pontiac minivan struck a ditch when it left the road and flipped and rolled three or four times, before coming to a stop, Apple said.

Alcohol and speed were both factors in the crash, Apple said.

Beaver Dam is a curvy road. Wager did not negotiate a curve and lost control of her vehicle, driving off the road, and into a ditch, Apple said.

Appleby was thrown out the sliding-door window, through glass, and landed directly in the ditch, Apple said. It is not believed that the car ever landed on her, Apple said.

Fitch was thrown through the window on the other side of the car, also through the glass, and was flung 20 to 30 feet, Apple said. He was conscious and able to speak when emergency crews arrived, although everyone one was "very disoriented," Apple said; he attributed this to the crash itself rather than the alcohol use.

When police arrived, Wager and Gates were still sitting inside the car, Apple said; the other two passengers were lying on the ground, where they had landed. It is believed the sheriff’s department arrived on the scene soon after the crash. The 911 call was made by a passerby, Apple said.

In a statement, one of the male passengers, said that they had been drinking, Apple said.

By observation, the officers could tell that Wager was intoxicated, but she refused to take a breathalyzer test at the scene, Apple said. The police were getting "not much cooperation" from Wager, Apple said. Later at the hospital, by court order, a blood sample was forcibly drawn from Wager, Apple said, and the lab results are pending. He does not believe that any substances other than alcohol were involved, he said.

Fitch and Gates are in their early 40’s and Appleby is in her late 20’s, Apple said. The four are associates and were driving around Saturday evening with "no real destination," Apple said.

The topography of the side of the road did not lead to a gentle landing, Apple said; the ditch forced the roll, but then the van landed in a grassy field with nothing to stop the motion, Apple said.

It is obvious from the car marks left on the road that Wager was going way too fast for the bend in the road, which wasn’t a particularly sharp one, Apple said "The Hilltowns have a lot of tricky roads," Apple said. It’s important for motorists to maintain the speed limits and go at most 20 miles per hour around curves, he said. There are a number of roads in the Hilltowns that do not have posted speed limits but do have a marker posting a speed around a bend, he said.

Wager has been arrested before in this part of town. In June of last year, she was arrested at Indian Ledge Road and Thacher Park Road for two misdemeanors: giving alcohol to a person under 21, and prohibited sale of alcoholic beverage.

Apple said she has no other criminal record.

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