Police charge driver in fatal Route 8 accident
NAUGATUCK — The wrong-way driver involved in a fatal two-car crash on Route 8 last April told authorities he drank about six bottles of beer and had nothing to eat all day before the accident, court records show.
Edmundo Mendieta, 36, of New Haven, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.221 percent, nearly triple the legal limit of 0.08, on the night of the April 28 accident, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
State police charged Mendieta on Tuesday with manslaughter with a motor vehicle in the second degree, assault with a motor vehicle in the second degree, operating under the influence of alcohol and or drugs and driving on wrong way on a divided highway.
Mendieta, who is being held on a $95,000 bond at the New Haven Correctional Center, is scheduled to appear Feb. 27 at Waterbury Superior Court.
William Baer Jr., 24, of Burton Road, Beacon Falls, died after the head-on collision on Route 8 south, authorities said.
According to the affidavit, at 9:56 p.m. Baer was driving a blue 2008 Honda Accord south just north of Exit 27. His passenger was Sara Chmielewski, of Stratford, who was 22 at the time of the accident.
Mendieta was driving a white 2003 Chevrolet G2500 van north in the southbound lane when the two vehicles collided.
Just before the accident happened, Troop I dispatch in Bethany put out a radio broadcast of a wrong-way driver that entered Route 8 from the Maple Street exit ramp in Naugatuck, court records show.
Borough firefighters had to extricate all three from the two vehicles.
Baer, who was unconscious with head injuries, was taken to Waterbury Hospital, where he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit with serious life-threatening injuries, according to the affidavit. He was pronounced dead on April 29 at Waterbury Hospital.
Chmielewski, who was unconscious, was taken to Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, where she underwent emergency surgery for serious life-threatening injuries, the affidavit states. State police checked her status on May 21, and was told she remained in critical condition and after another surgery she should be transferred to a rehabilitation clinic for further treatment.
Her current condition wasn’t available as of this post.
Mendieta was alert and conscious, and was taken to Saint Mary’s, where he was in the emergency room with a possible leg fracture and a cut to the face, the affidavit states.
State police said in an initial interview Mendieta slurred his words and had a strong odor of liquor on his breath while speaking, court records show. He told state police that after work, he had six Coronas at a friend’s house before the accident. He hadn’t eaten anything all day, and he didn’t recall driving or the accident, he told state police.
State police obtained statements from several witnesses who either saw the van driving erratically in the borough, or saw the crash.
One witness told state police that he saw a white van come out of nowhere and strike the blue car. The van came off the ground into the air before it landed on top of a jersey barrier, he told authorities. His girlfriend had to swerve abruptly to avoid making contact with the blue car, court records show.