WINDHAM – Ryan McDonald, a longtime Windham Planning Board member, had to do some quick thinking and quick maneuvering to avoid being killed by a drunk driver Sunday night while driving through Gray.

McDonald was on his way to New Gloucester along Route 202 on May 13 when a 1999 Saturn crossed the centerline and sideswiped the rear end of McDonald’s 2003 Ford Crown Victoria.

McDonald survived the high-speed, near head-on collision and witnessed through his rear-view mirror the damaged Saturn continue toward Gray Center on Route 202.

According to Lt. Kerry Joyce of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, the driver, Crystal Coron, 26, of Windham, was apprehended with the aid of vehicle descriptions given by McDonald and a nearby resident who heard the collision and looked out the window to observe. Coron was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of a property damage accident and operating under the influence. Her blood alcohol content was tested at .17, Joyce said, about an hour and 40 minutes after the accident. In Maine, those testing at .08 or higher are considered operating under the influence.

McDonald, who was on his way to New Gloucester to retrieve a cell phone he had let a friend borrow, was planning to return home from the “quick errand” to continue studying his Planning Board packet for this week’s meeting. When contacted Monday, McDonald, who ran for Windham Town Council last year, said he was fine, although his car was “not so fine.” His insurance, he said, will cover the damage, however.

McDonald described the scene as it unfolded in front of him Sunday at about 7:30 p.m. as follows:

“I was driving through Gray headed to New Gloucester on Route 202 and the car in front of me started to honk their horn and I saw their brake lights go on and I could see a car in the oncoming lane was drifting over into our lane. I could see that they were on a collision source with the car in front of me. So the car in front of me tried to take evasive maneuvers and went into the left lane and avoided the collision. And I just decided to get over as far as I could into the ditch and onto the shoulder. And it was coming at me head-on but I was over enough so our mirrors just missed, but she actually caught the back end of my car, the left fender just behind the tire. But she kept going. Pieces of her car went everywhere but she kept going, all over the road,” he said.

The accident took place just east of Weymouth Road, in a 50 mph zone.

After the impact, McDonald said, his vehicle stalled, since the collision activated the fuel shut-off mechanism. He immediately called 911 on his cell phone. At that time,a neighbor who had heard the crash and stood up from his living room chair to see the purple Saturn driving off with a severely damaged left front end, came down to the roadside to see if McDonald was all right. The neighbor then drove off in an attempt to locate the other vehicle, since he presumed it couldn’t have gone very far due to its damage. After the neighbor left, a Cumberland County deputy arrived and asked McDonald to fill out a report and to describe the vehicle. The neighbor returned at that point and conveyed to the deputy a fuller description of the vehicle. According to Joyce, the deputy then drove off and within minutes found Coron at the end of LeGrow Road, about a half-mile away from the accident scene.

Joyce said Coron was outside the vehicle talking to a friend who had arrived to give Coron a ride. In his attempt to arrest Coron, the friend, identified as Angela Brown, 34, of Poland, became disorderly.

“The Brown subject was being disorderly when the deputy was trying to obtain personal information from the Coron subject. She was basically out of control, swearing, taunting him after being told to relax. She continued, and after several warnings she ended up being arrested for disorderly conduct,” Joyce said.

While the deputy was arresting the friend, Coron, who had been placed in the deputy’s cruiser, kicked out one of the back windows. The deputy slapped an additional charge of criminal mischief for the damage to the cruiser.

McDonald was OK after the accident, declining medical care. However, he was in shock that Coron didn’t stop after the accident. He was also shocked the driver of the car he was initially following, who managed to avoid the accident by swerving into the oncoming lane, didn’t stop either.

“Yes, the other guy kept going. I couldn’t believe it. He hit the brakes for a second and just kept going. I thought for sure they’d stop. Luckily, there was a house right there and while the resident didn’t see the impact, they stood up and looked out the window in time and saw that car swerving lane to lane taking off, and they saw me on the side of the road, so they were able to corroborate it with police.”

The one good thing in the ordeal was McDonald’s choice of vehicle, he said. The 2003 Crown Vic is a former police car McDonald bought at auction. He credits the car’s beefed-up handling with saving his life.

“That was the great thing about it because I didn’t want to hit the brakes too sharply because I knew I was going to have to steer through this thing no matter how it played out. It handled amazingly well considering two of the tires were in the dirt and two were on the pavement,” McDonald said. “And when she hit me as hard as she did, pieces went everywhere and it did kind of spin the back end of the car a little bit, but even at what was probably 40 mph at that point, I was able to keep it on the road.”

Both Coron and Brown were taken to Cumberland County Jail. Coron was released on $350 cash bail on Monday, May 14. Brown was released the same day on $200 cash bail. Their arraignment dates were not available at press time.

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