A school van driver who was charged with driving while under the influence of drugs after crashing a van full of children into a utility pole last September has been arrested again, accused of driving her two young grandchildren while she was under the influence, according to police.
Police identified the woman as Catherine Caron, 53, of Baltic, and said the smell of alcohol was emanating from her breath as she spoke to police. She was held in custody and arraigned in Danielson Superior Court on Tuesday.
Willimantic police responded to the Chucky’s gas station on Jackson Street at 8:37 p.m. on Monday to investigate several 911 calls about a possible drunken driver leaving the store with two small children. ages 4 and 6, in her red Chevrolet Prism, police said.
Surveillance footage from the gas station shows Caron walk into the store with her two grandchildren around 8:30 p.m. on Monday. Then she spoke briefly to the clerk and left the establishment.
"There were several people that were grossly concerned about this woman’s demeanor within the store," Cpl. S. Francis Parizo Jr. said.
When officers arrived, they heard a witness say, "Stop. You can't drive off with those kids. You are drunk," according to the arraignment report and affidavit.
Then the witness positioned his purple pickup truck along the woman's bumper to keep her from leaving. Meanwhile a second witness was on the phone calling police.
"He actually pleaded with her at one point to please let me bring your children home. I’ll bring him home," Parizo Jr. said. "Don’t drive with your children in the vehicle."
Caron also had a clear bag with several prescription pill medications that were not in their prescription containers, police said. The UConn Poison Control Center tested them and identified them as methadone and clonazepam. Police seized the pills.
Police also noticed alcohol on her breath and arrested her. She refused to take a breathalyzer test.
Caron was charged with operating with a suspended license; illegally obtaining or supplying drugs, fraud/conceal; possession of narcotics and two counts of risk of injury/impairing the morals of a child.
The children, identified as her grandkids, were turned over to a family member and the state Department of Children and Families was notified.
"This is a serious incident involving this DUI arrest with two small children in the vehicle. We have the moral obligation as adults to live up to the expectations of our children. Having said this, society expects and demands that we protect our children," Parizo, Jr. said in a statement.
On Nov. 6, Caron was arrested in Willimantic and charged with driving under the influence, possession of a controlled substance and risk of injury in connection with a crash in September.
Caron was driving a school van for the regional education service center EASTCONN when she crashed into a pole in the area of 90 Quarry Street on Sept. 10, 2014, according to police.
Four children between the ages of 8 and 15 were in the van and all four were treated at Windham Hospital.
Following the crash, Caron was placed on paid administrative leave and later fired, according to EASTCONN.
She pleaded not guilty to those charges and is due back in court on June 16.
Her charges were read to her at Danielson Superior Court on Tuesday and her bond was set at $25,000 in this case.
Her next scheduled court date is June 24.