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Woman pleads not guilty in fatal crash

Was allegedly driving drunk

By Laura J. Nelson
Globe Correspondent / June 14, 2011

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LAWRENCE — A 21-year-old woman pleaded not guilty yesterday in Lawrence District Court and is being held on charges that she was driving drunk during an early morning weekend crash that killed two men on Interstate 93 in Andover.

Shayna Fernandez, of Lawrence, faces six counts of vehicular homicide and charges of driving under the influence in the Saturday morning accident that killed Joseph Coppola, 57, of Malden, and Francis O’Hanley, Jr., 62, of Saugus.

Judge Thomas Brennan set Fernandez’s bail at $50,000 and scheduled her pretrial hearing for July 14, the Essex district attorney’s office said.

Around 7 a.m. Saturday in a northbound lane of I-93, witnesses said they saw Fernandez’s sedan pass them at speeds close to 90 miles per hour, a State Police report said.

As Fernandez changed lanes, she crashed into O’Hanley’s sport utility vehicle, towing a trailer with a fishing boat. She then veered onto the median and back onto the road, hitting the SUV again, the report said.

When troopers arrived, the SUV was on the median and the sedan was straddling the interstate’s breakdown lane, the report said.

Fernandez was standing by the guardrail, crying, “Oh, God, I killed them all,’’ according to the report.

O’Hanley died at the scene. Coppola died at Massachusetts General Hospital.

A third passenger in the SUV, O’Hanley’s 25-year-old son, Francis, was not seriously injured.

Fernandez, who was uninjured, was arrested at the scene. She told troopers she drank “a few beers’’ around 4:30 a.m., the report said. She took a breath test at the scene and registered a 0.145 percent blood-alcohol level. The legal limit is 0.08 percent.

During yesterday’s arraignment, Fernandez kept her head bowed and did not look at the courtroom, where her friends and relatives lined the benches and O’Hanley and Coppola’s family members cried and held one another.

Defense lawyer Stephen Wright asked Brennan to reduce bail to $5,000, calling Fernandez’s previous driving infractions minor and citing a disabled sister for whom Fernandez is a full-time caretaker.

“Even though she didn’t have a record of significance, there are two people who are dead,’’ Brennan said. Wright and Essex District Attorney Colleen Cashman declined to comment.

“We all want to say what a great guy he was, and that we’ll all miss him very much,’’ Amy O’Hanley, Francis O’Hanley’s daughter, said by phone later. She declined to comment further.

Fernandez also faces a number of other charges including negligent operation of a motor vehicle and speeding.

Laura J. Nelson can be reached at lnelson@globe.com.