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Driver charged in crash with actor

Bullock is not injured in Gloucester accident

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Matt Viser
Globe Staff / April 20, 2008

GLOUCESTER - Movie star Sandra Bullock and her husband were hit in a head-on collision by an alleged drunk driver Friday night, according to police in this seaside fishing community.

No one was injured, but police said both cars were towed and a Gloucester woman was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and failure to stay in marked lanes.

Bullock, 43, who is in the area shooting the romantic comedy "The Proposal," had finished filming in Rockport and was riding down curvy East Main Street in a black 2008 sport utility vehicle rented at an Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Billerica, police said.

As the car - which included Bullock, her husband, Jesse James, their driver, and several small dogs - approached the East Gloucester Square Laundromat just before 10 p.m., a Subaru swerved into their lane, police said.

Bullock's car was going about 15 to 20 miles per hour and tried to move out of the way, but the Subaru crashed into them, startling patrons dining nearby at Duckworth's Bistrot, which serves raw oysters, New York strip steaks, and $80 bottles of wine.

Ken Duckworth, the restaurant's owner and chef, sprinted out to find Bullock consoling the driver in the Subaru, 64-year-old Lucile P. Gatchell, of Gloucester, and asking repeatedly whether she was alright.

"She was pretty sincerely concerned about the woman," Duckworth said. "It could have been a lot worse."

When Gloucester police officer Kevin Mackey arrived, Bullock and James, who hosts the TV show "Motorcyclist Mania" (and is kin to the famed 19th-century outlaw), were standing to the side hugging each other. Gatchell was still sitting alone inside her car, uncertain of what had happened.

"She seemed dazed and confused," Mackey said. "Her speech was heavily slurred."

Gatchell was driving so erratically that the person driving behind her was getting ready to dial 911, police said. Tests showed that her blood alcohol level was .20, more than twice the legal limit, according to the police report.

Gatchell was told several times that it was Bullock who she hit, police said, and each time she expressed shock as if it was the first time she heard.

"She said, 'My first drunk driving incident and I hit Sandra Bullock,' " Mackey said. "She was almost laughing. But crying, too."

"Mrs. Bullock was very personable and was concerned for [Gatchell's] well-being," Mackey said.

Gatchell, who did not respond to messages left at her home and on her telephone, is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow in Gloucester District Court. She did not have a previous police record, Mackey said.

About 20 minutes after the crash, Bullock and James were driven away by Bullock's Los Angeles-based security detail, police said. Gatchell was taken away in handcuffs in the back of a police cruiser.

Bullock's driver on Friday night, 55-year-old Mark Hussey, of Londonderry, N.H., declined to comment yesterday. The movie's publicist said Bullock probably would not comment, and Bullock's agent could not be reached.

Bullock, who has starred in "Speed," "28 Days," and "Miss Congeniality," has been in the Cape Ann area to film a romantic comedy based in the seacoast town Sitka, Alaska. Bullock plays a publishing executive who is trying to force her young male assistant to marry her so she can avoid being deported to Canada.

The movie, which also stars Ryan Reynolds, Craig T. Nelson, and Mary Steenburgen, is scheduled to shoot additional scenes in Gloucester and Manchester-by-the-Sea.

Word of the crash spread quickly throughout Gloucester yesterday, and police were fielding calls yesterday from People Magazine and TV shows Access Hollywood and Entertainment Tonight.

Within 10 minutes of the crash, people crowded outside, taking photos of Bullock and James with their cellphones.

"It was a pretty crazy scene," Duckworth said.

The day before the crash, Mackey was with his fiancée in Rockport, trying to get close enough to photograph Bullock. The next night, he was consoling the movie star and writing a three-page police report on her crash.

"We're star-struck," he said. "Just like everyone else."

Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.

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