Teen in crash accused of inhaling vapors
A teenager is facing assault and motor vehicle charges after striking two pedestrians with her car in Lowell over the weekend while she was “high’’ from sniffing a can of compressed air, often used to clean computers, police said.
Catherine Gaudette, 17, of Dracut, faces several charges in connection with the Oct. 9 crash, Lowell police said in a statement. The victims remain hospitalized in serious and critical condition, police said.
Gaudette was driving northbound on Mammoth Road in a 2002 Honda Accord around 3:40 p.m. Sunday when she struck Doris Milagro-Ortiz, 45, of Lowell, with her car, police said. Milagro-Ortiz was crossing the street, near Eighth Avenue, at the time.
The car continued for approximately 50 feet, crossed the marked lane, and struck Tina Phoeuth, 22, of Lowell, who was getting into her parked car on Mammoth Road, police said.
Gaudette had three passengers in the car - Andrew Dubois, 17, of Dracut, and two male juveniles, ages 15 and 16, both of Dracut, police also said. Gaudette was allegedly unconscious when the crash occurred. Dubois is not facing charges.
Gaudette has been charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (a motor vehicle), causing serious bodily injury, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, impeded operation, failure to slow for a pedestrian, operating at speed greater than reasonable, and failure to drive in marked lanes.
Prior to the crash, Gaudette and two of her passengers were allegedly inhaling vapors from a can of compressed air, commonly used to clean computer equipment. The chemical propellant in the product is difluoroethane, which results in the body being temporarily deprived of oxygen in the lungs, creating a high, police said in their statement.
The chemical Gaudette allegedly used to get high is extremely dangerous, and a problem throughout the country, said Lowell police Captain Randall Humphrey.
“Any person who operates a motor vehicle that involves them in any type of behavior that causes them to be distracted from that vehicle turns that motor vehicle into a potentially lethal and dangerous weapon,’’ he said. “And this is a tragic, unfortunate example of that.’’
Milagro-Ortiz remains in critical condition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and Phoeuth is in serious condition at Lowell General Hospital. Gaudette was treated and released at Lowell General Hospital.
Gaudette’s court date has not been determined.
Amanda Cedrone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.