Wrong-way driver’s attorneys blame crash on cop
N.M. woman remains jailed in Arizona after incident on I-40
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Attorneys for a wrong-way driver say an Arizona Department of Public Safety sergeant who used his vehicle as a traffic break is to blame for a crash on Interstate 40 that sent both of them to the hospital.
The driver, Patricia Carvalho, has been indicted on 17 charges, including attempted homicide, aggravated drunken driving, and endangerment. The Los Ranchos, N.M., woman had a suspended driver’s license and a blood-alcohol content of more than four times Arizona’s legal limit for driving when she was spotted going the wrong way in Flagstaff, according to court documents.
Sgt. Paul Damgaard used his unmarked, white patrol vehicle as a traffic break. Its emergency lights were flashing as he swerved side to side to slow down traffic before coming to a stop in the middle of three lanes on Nov. 17. In a dash camera video captured by another motorist, Carvalho’s vehicle turns in from an outside lane, hitting Damgaard’s.
The Department of Public Safety said Damgaard likely saved the lives of other drivers. At least three people called to report that Carvalho was driving recklessly or the wrong way, according to a statement of probable cause.
In an email to the Associated Press, Carvalho’s court-appointed attorneys, Steven Harvey and Kara Sagi, contend that Damgaard injured their client and endangered her child. They also contend the state could be using the media to prejudice the jury pool.
The Department of Public Safety planned to make Damgaard available Friday to talk to reporters but canceled without explanation.
Carvalho remained jailed on a $3 million bond. An arraignment is scheduled Monday at Coconino County Superior Court.
State Trooper Rich Moses tried to pull over Carvalho’s vehicle before the crash, but she fled, made a U-turn and drove the wrong way on I-40. He drove after her with his lights and siren on, but she didn’t stop until slower traffic around her blocked her path.
Moses then got out of his vehicle to arrest her, reaching through the driver side window and grabbing her arm, authorities said. But Carvalho navigated around vehicles as traffic began moving and took off with Moses running briefly beside her vehicle, court documents state.
The crash happened less than a mile down the road. The video shows Carvalho’s and Damgaard’s vehicles hit, throwing debris and liquid about the tree-lined interstate.
Damgaard opens his door but doesn’t immediately get out. Someone else checks on Carvalho and her daughter, who turned 2 on Thursday. The child was not injured.
At the Flagstaff hospital where she was being treated, Carvalho told authorities she had seven drinks and two shots, but the smell of alcohol was from the night before, court documents state. Authorities found open cans of beer in the vehicle and an open bottle of vodka. Carvalho said she also took three prescription drugs as part of a morning routine, the documents say.
Her blood-alcohol content was 0.365, authorities said. She was arrested Nov. 19 after being released from the hospital.