February 18, 2013

Victims of 6-car crash say convicted driver's plea deal too lenient

The driver who caused a spectacular Waterville crash is sentenced to three days in jail and has her license suspended for 30 days.

By Ben McCanna bmccanna@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE — The legal case is resolved, but emotions still linger.

click image to enlarge

Nancy Hazard's car lies demolished and overturned on March 18, after it plowed into five vehicles parked at a traffic light in Waterville, sending six peole to the hospital.

Staff file photo by David Leaming

Earlier this month, the state reached a plea deal with the driver who caused a spectacular six-car crash at Post Office Square nearly one year ago; however, some of the victims in the crash are unsatisfied with the results. 

The deal is too lenient, they say.

Nancy M. Hazard, 46, pleaded guilty Feb. 7 to a felony charge of aggravated driving to endanger. The arrangement calls for her to be sentenced to three days in jail and for her license to be suspended for 30 days. If Hazard has no other criminal problems in the next 12 months, she can return to Kennebec County Superior Court to withdraw her guilty plea and plead guilty to a lesser misdemeanor charge.

Hazard’s attorney, Luann Calcagni, has said the crash was the result of a psychotic episode stemming from a mental illness, and Hazard “did nothing wrong.”

It’s a sentiment that doesn’t sit well with those whose vehicles were destroyed and lives imperiled.

“I took profound offense to Ms. Hazard’s attorney attempting to make it look like no crime had been committed,” Deril Stubenrod said. “This woman intentionally drove her car into a row of vehicles she had to know were occupied by people. She got little more than a slap on the wrist for putting one man in the hospital and nearly sending a dozen others to their graves.”

On an unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon in March, Hazard slammed her 2008 Suzuki SX4 into five cars waiting at a red light. She was traveling 65 to 80 mph at the time of impact. The downtown intersection is a 25-mph zone.

Stubenrod; his wife, Patty Stubenrod, 33; and two young sons were sitting in a 1996 Chevy Lumina, waiting for the light to turn green when the father heard a short squeal and looked into his rear-view mirror just in time to see Hazard’s vehicle barrel into his. The back end of Stubenrod’s car caved into the passenger compartment where sons Matthew, 7, and Charles, 6, were sitting. At the same time, the front seats collapsed backward onto the boys’ legs. Stubenrod and his oldest son were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

“I have no ill will toward Ms. Hazard. I have forgiven her,” he said Friday. “Forgiveness is at the core of our religious beliefs, but there is that accountability issue.”

Stubenrod, 44,  would like Hazard to spend more time in jail than the three-day sentence.

“Some incarceration is indicated here, even ... as little as two weeks. This lady needs to see that her actions had impact,” he said.

Karl Andresen said he’s also unsatisfied by the plea agreement, but has mixed feelings about how the plea could have been improved.

Andresen was injured the most severely in the crash, except perhaps for Hazard, who spent a month in the hospital and continues to require treatment for her injuries. 

Andresen, 69, was sitting in his 2006 Toyota Tacoma on College Avenue, waiting for the light to change, when his truck suddenly was destroyed. He suffered a cracked vertebra in his neck, eight broken ribs, a concussion and a laceration on his tongue. Almost a year later, Andresen is almost fully recovered. His ribs are sometimes sore when he coughs or laughs.

“Would I have wanted her to spend time in prison? I honestly don’t know,” Andresen said Thursday. “There are times I feel she should, and other times I say ‘No, let bygones by bygones.’”

In some ways, the crash has been a force of positive change in his life, said Andresen, a Spanish teacher at Winslow High School.

“It’s made me thankful to be alive. It’s made me change my teaching to appreciate my students even more so, because I value every minute I have in the classroom with them,” he said.

The experience of being bedridden and dependent on others for several weeks gave Andresen a better appreciation for friends, particularly his wife.

“It increased the love in our marriage a goodly amount. That sounds corny, but it was one of the benefits of the accident.”

The thing that Andresen wants most from Hazard, is perhaps the easiest: an apology.

“That would have been nice to have, even in written form. If she had said, ‘I’m sorry for the pain and suffering you have endured,’ I would have loved to have that. That would have brought closure,” he said.

Andresen also vacillates between agreeing with the 30-day license suspension and wanting Hazard’s license revoked permanently.

“I just want to know that if she’s driving, she won’t be a hazard again to any other person,” he said.

Ben McCanna — 861-9239
bmccanna@centralmaine.com

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