By Elio Gugliotti, Editor
NAUGATUCK — Police on March 4 charged a Waterbury woman in connection with a head-on crash last fall on North Church Street that killed a 69-year-old woman and left her passenger with broken bones and internal injuries.
Police said 41-year-old Joie Cascella was driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo north on North Church Street near the intersection of Mill Street on Oct. 11 when she crossed the double yellow lines and crashed into a Nissan Rogue heading south at about 3:45 p.m.
Carol Gironda of Naugatuck, who was driving the Nissan, was pronounced dead at the scene. Cascella and Diana Truchsess of Naugatuck, who was a passenger in Gironda’s SUV, both suffered serious injuries.
Cascella surrendered to police on March 4 and was charged with second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, second-degree assault with a motor vehicle, driving under the influence and several moving violations.
Video footage of the crash taken from a traffic camera at the intersection of North Church Street, also known as Route 63, and Mill Street shows the Jeep had completely crossed over the double yellow lines into the southbound lane when it enters the frame and collides with the Nissan, the warrant states.
The Jeep was going 55 mph before the crash and slowed to 52 mph due to a gradual incline in the road, the warrant states. The warrants states there was no indication Cascella braked before the crash.
The crash caused “catastrophic damage” to the front end of both vehicles. When officers arrived at the scene, the warrant states they couldn’t get to Gironda to attempt any life-saving measures because the driver’s door of the Nissan was crushed. Officers broke the rear passenger window to get into the car.
The force of the crash broke the car’s steering wheel off the column, the warrant states. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled Gironda died from blunt trauma to the head, neck and torso.
Truchsess broke her collarbone in three places, suffered a broken ankle and required multiple surgeries for internal injuries, according to the warrant.
Police said Cascella got out of the Jeep after officers arrived and was walking around in a “dazed state” that resembled someone who had ingested an opioid. After the crash, Cascella was seen leaning on a police car for balance and her eyes were almost completely closed at times, according to police.
Cascella told a paramedic she had three beers between 12 p.m. and the crash, according to the warrant. Toxicology reports showed her blood-alcohol level was minimal and not close to the legal limit, which is .08 %.
Cascella declined to speak with police in the weeks after the crash after retaining an attorney. It’s unclear if she retained a lawyer for her defense.
Toxicology reports of blood samples taken from Cascella after the crash showed traces of cocaine, fentanyl and Tramadol in her blood, the warrant states. Tramadol is a drug commonly used to treat pain.
Cascella was arraigned March 4 in Waterbury Superior Court, where her bond was lowered from $500,000 to $150,000. She posted bond and is scheduled to appear in court again on March 17.