Police: Woman hit vehicles, pinning man between SUVs

A Cambria County woman is behind bars after police said she slammed her minivan into a row of parked vehicles on Seventh Avenue, pinning an Altoona man between two SUVs.

Meagan E. Alexander, 27, of Mineral Point was allegedly high on drugs when she started a chain-reaction crash at about 6:21 a.m. on the 300 block of Seventh Avenue by driving her 2003 Dodge Caravan into the back of a 1995 GMC Jimmy that was parked on the right side of the two-lane, one-way street.

Police said the impact sent the Jimmy into the back of a parked 1998 Oldsmobile Bravada, pinning the legs of the Bravada’s owner, Patrick Damiano, 47, of Altoona, who happened to be standing between the vehicles at the time of the crash.

“It was still pitch dark, and all I saw was headlights,” said Diana Dean, 47, of Altoona, who was sitting behind the wheel of the parked Jimmy.

Dean said she was about to get out her vehicle only moments earlier but saw headlights coming down Seventh Avenue in the right lane.

Figuring she would wait for the vehicle to pass by before getting out, Dean said she still had her foot on the brake and was looking in her rearview mirror when she noticed the headlights were no longer in the right travel lane, but directly behind her.

“They never even slowed down,” Dean said.

The impact pushed the Jimmy into the Bravada with enough force that the Bravada lurched forward and struck a parked Ford Econoline van parked in front of it, police said.

“I looked up, and there he was on my hood,” Dean said, recalling how Damiano was screaming that his legs were pinned as she scrambled to see if he was all right and backed up the Jimmy to free him.

“There was blood everywhere,” Dean said, adding that after she called 911, the 5’2″, 120-pound Alexander approached.

“What I’d do? What I’d do?” Alexander exclaimed, Dean said.

Dean said when she next saw Alexander, an Altoona police officer was questioning the woman, asking, “What are you on? Have you been drinking?”

Dean said Alexander initially denied she was under the influence.

According to Altoona police, Alexander appeared unsteady on her feet, had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech, and told the responding officer she had taken “speed” but couldn’t specifically say what drug she was talking about, only that she had smoked it, and it was a white powder. Police said Alexander said she had also taken a prescription painkiller she got from a friend. In Alexander’s minivan, officers said they found five hypodermic needles and three prescription pain pills of acetaminophen and hydrocodone, a drug marketed under the brand name Vicodin.

Police said Alexander, who allegedly failed three out of five field sobriety tests, was taken to UPMC Altoona for a blood test. She was booked on felony and misdemeanor counts, including felony aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence, and arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Jeffrey Auker early Wednesday afternoon.

Dean said she was “banged up” in the wreck but not severely injured. Dean explained that Damiano had asked her to accompany him to an elderly lady’s home on Seventh Avenue to help the woman set up a television.

“This is how big of a heart this man has,” Dean said of Damiano, who she said had surgery Wednesday with more operations expected this week. Police said Damiano suffered multiple fractures of the right tibia and fibula, a broken left tibia and a possible “artery occlusion” in the right leg.

“Both legs were crushed,” Dean said, adding that she spoke with Damiano’s family and was told doctors predicted Damiano would not lose his legs. Damiano was listed in fair condition Wednesday evening at UPMC Altoona.

Alexander remains in Blair County Prison in lieu of $7,500 cash bail. A preliminary hearing is slated for Oct. 23 at Central Court.