Police: Intoxicated driver crashes into 3 Clinton homes, causes gas leak

Several Clinton residents are picking up the pieces after police say an intoxicated driver smashed into three houses on Main St., caused a gas leak and took out power Sunday morning.

Joann Schumacher was just getting out of bed shortly before 7 a.m., when she heard the commotion and looked outside to find her front porch gone.

The Ford Explorer had taken out a nearby utility pole, demolished her front stairs and continued careening into next-door neighbor Codie Whelan’s house, where the vehicle sheared off her entire front porch and busted the gas meter.

“It was just a mess. I mean, it’s not a pleasant way to wake up in the morning,” Schumacher said, describing the loud hissing of the ruptured gas line. “They were evacuating people, and then eventually they made us all move down [the street], and of course we were all concerned about our pets. We didn’t know if it was going to blow up.”

Schumacher called Whalen, who was staying in Gardner at her cousin’s house for Memorial Day weekend with her family.

“I had to run in my stocking feet all the way up this hill to find my dogs in the window so scared,” Whalen said through tears. “We are very grateful that we were not home. We are also extremely grateful and blessed that no one was hurt.”

With no gas or electric, Whalen said the house she rents was deemed unlivable, and the Red Cross provided her family with a hotel room.

She hopes the building inspector will find no structural damage and allow her to return with her two sons – a six-year-old who is medically complex and a 14-year-old who has autism.

“We’re really going through a lot right now, and my kids – this is their home,” Whalen said.

After Whalen’s house, the driver smashed into a third home and a parked car before finally stopping.

Police say the 22-year-old man, whom they did not identify, fought with officers before being arrested and charged with operating under the influence, speeding, unlicensed operation, destruction of property, resisting arrest and assault and battery on a police officer.

“He sat there and tried to get away three times,” Schumacher said of the driver. “They tackled him and finally handcuffed him on the third try.”

While residents believe the driver’s actions are inexcusable, Whalen hopes he gets the help he may need.

“We hope that the 22-year-old that did this is at least healthy,” Whalen said. “And obviously, a mistake is a mistake – he was 22, everybody makes mistakes – but this one caused my family a lot.”

Clinton police say the investigation is still underway and more charges are possible.

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