POSTED: Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 3:44pm
UPDATED: Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 5:07pm
WALKER, LA (NBC33) — After attempting to flee the scene of a hit and run accident, a minivan crashed into the side of a church in Walker. Police believe the driver was impaired by illegal narcotics.
Officials say the incident happened on Wednesday, Dec. 21 around 3:00 p.m. We’re told a blue Toyota PreRunner minivan being driven by Vanessa Whittington, 23, of Walker backed into a Jeep Cherokee while at the Murphy’s Express on Walker South Road.
“After hitting [the] vehicle, Whittington left the scene, traveling north on Walker South Road, crossing Florida Blvd, and continuing north,” Captain John Sharp, Walker Police Department, explained.
Witnesses say that before Whittington reached the railroad tracks, she stopped in the north bound lane near Dunn Street.
Witnesses say that while the van was stopped, they saw the driver and passenger, Orrin Thomas, 22, of Bogalusa, engaging in the use of illegal narcotics. Upon approaching the vehicle, the witness says Wittington took off at a high rate of speed.
“As Ms. Whittington crossed the railroad tracks on Walker North Road, she failed to negotiate a curve and lost control of the vehicle,” Captain Sharp continued. “After leaving the roadway, the van traveled 351 feet before striking the church.”
The damage to the church and the vehicle was extensive.
“It’s remarkable that neither occupant of the van was seriously injured,” Chief Hunter Grimes, Walker Police, commented about the damage caused by the accident. “Mr. Thomas was not wearing his seatbelt at the time of and could have been badly hurt.”
Both Whittington and the passenger were taken to a local hospital and treated for minor injuries.
“Due to witness statements, the circumstances of the crash, including the hit and run, and after observing Ms. Wittington and Mr. Thomas at the scene of the accident, we requested that a blood sample be drawn from Ms. Whittington. We will submit the blood sample to the Louisiana State Police for a drug and alcohol analysis.”
For now, Whittington has been charged with failure to maintain control of her vehicle and will be with hit and run driving as well. Whittington could face additional charges of driving under the influence, criminal damage to property and negligent injury depending on the results of the blood analysis.
Thomas was charged with failure to wear a seatbelt.
“This is a treacherous section of road,” Chief Grimes added. “It is heavily traveled and has several blind intersections and the church is in a dangerous curve. It was just by the Grace of God that there were no cars traveling south when Ms. Whittington lost control.”