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Driver crashes car into Frederick County Courthouse

By Kate Leckie

Sunday - 5/29/2011, 6:26am  ET

Officer David Golden, a Frederick Police Department accident reconstructionist, photographs a car that crashed into the courthouse on Saturday. (Bill Green/Frederick News-Post)

A downtown intersection was closed for about 30 minutes Saturday after a car driving the wrong way on West Patrick Street crashed into the Frederick County Courthouse.

Sgt. Greg Gautney of the Frederick Police Department said the driver of a Pontiac four-door sedan apparently failed to negotiate a curve in the 100 block of West Patrick Street, hit a tree and a fire hydrant, and then drove into a wing of the building at about 5:50 p.m.

Alexandra Penate, 20, of Hyattsville, was listed in critical condition late Saturday after being flown by Maryland State Police helicopter to R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

In the moments after the crash, Penate was fluctuating in and out of consciousness and at times became combative, Gautney said.

The crash occurred as police were responding to a report of a fight involving women at the GetGo gas station in the 1000 block of West Patrick Street.

Gautney said employees of the gas station said one woman involved in the skirmish raced off from the store. Moments later, police responded to the crash just outside their headquarters, which is attached to the courthouse.

The courthouse and the gas station are a little more than a mile apart.

Police believe the woman who crashed her Pontiac into the building is the woman who drove away from the Golden Mile business at a high rate of speed.

Alcohol is suspected of being a factor in the crash, Gautney said.

A police officer collecting evidence at the crash scene pulled at least one clear alcoholic beverage bottle from the car for a drink called a mojito.

Based on damage to the woman's car, a Pontiac G6, her vehicle may have hit other cars between the gas station and the courthouse, police said early in the investigation.

They confirmed at least one occupied vehicle was hit in the area of West Patrick Street and Norva Avenue. No one was injured, Gautney said.

Police believe it was at this point that Penate began driving in the wrong lane of traffic.

At least one tire on the car was flattened. The muffler became dislodged. The driver's side of the vehicle was crumpled, and the back bumper ended up in front of the car.

The driver's air bag deployed.

A fire hydrant on the sidewalk was knocked off its post and into a stairwell near the part of the courthouse that houses public defenders, prosecutors and a Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs office.

Damage to the brick building did not appear to be significant.

The investigation is continuing.

Copyright 2011 The Frederick News-Post. All rights reserved.