A Sparta teen who was talking on his cell phone and more than twice the legal limit was speeding when he struck a parked pickup truck and fled the scene as children were being dropped off at a nearby school Monday morning, police said.
Raymond J. Farrell, 18, was charged with DWI in a school zone during school hours, reckless driving, operating an unsafe vehicle and using a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle.
According to Sgt. John-Paul Beebe, several eyewitnesses said Farrell was talking on his cell phone and driving his Nissan Altima at a high rate of speed as he passed a school bus stop where children were standing on South Shore Trail at about 7:45 a.m. Monday.
As the vehicle negotiated a turn near the Lady of the Lake Church parking lot, the speed caused the passenger side wheels of the car to lift off the roadway, Beebe said. As the vehicle came out of the turn, the passenger side wheels slammed onto the ground, causing the front and rear tires to flatten, Beebe said.
Farrell lost control of the car, went into a partial spin, crossed over a solid yellow line and into the opposite lane of the road, across a grassy section and entered the church parking lot, Beebe said.
Farrell then crashed into the side of a 1994 Ford Ranger pickup truck and then fled the scene, Beebe said. The portion of the parking lot where the accident happened is also used for parents to drop off their children at Rev. George A. Brown Memorial School.
Cpl. Robert Fraser stopped Farrell a short time later in his badly damaged vehicle on North Shore Trail, Beebe said. Farrell was placed under arrest after he failed a series of field sobriety tests, Beebe said.
Farrell was released to a sober adult and is scheduled to appear in Sparta Municipal Court at 6 p.m. on April 28.