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Drunk Driver Rear-Ends Semi On I-80 On Her 34th Birthday

GARY, Ind. (STMW) -- A 34-year-old Hammond, Ind. woman -- who police say had a blood-alcohol level 2 1/2 times over the legal limit -- ended her 34th birthday celebration early Saturday by totaling her car when she rear-ended a semi on I-80 outside of Gary.

The woman, who had to be extricated from the car, was charged with three traffic violations, including DUI and driving on a suspended license, Indiana State Police said.

A preliminary investigation by Indiana State Police found that at approximately 2:40 a.m., a 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt, driven by Natasha M. Garza was going west in the right middle lane of I-80 at the 11.5 mile marker, which is about 1 1/2 miles west of Central Avenue and east of Gary.

A 2010 Mack truck pulling a box trailer was also going west on I-80, in the right middle, lane when it was hit in the rear by the Cobalt. The truckdriver, 53-year-old Juan G. Palafox, of Romeoville, didn't know his semi had been hit at first and drove over a mile with the Cobalt wedged partially underneath the box trailer, before stopping on the outer shoulder, a release from Indiana State Police said.

Gary Fire Department personnel had to extricate Garza from her car, which was totaled. She was taken to NorthLake Methodist Hospital with arm and ankle injuries that are not considered life-threatening, state police said. Garza's birthday was Friday, October 26, and her blood alcohol level tested over 2 1/2 times (.21 percent BAC) the legal limit of .08 percent, the release said.

Garza was charged with driving while intoxicated, driving while her license had been suspended, and following too closely, the release said.

Palafox, whose semi was owned by PAGG Trucking out of Chicago, was hauling 42,000 pounds of rice. None of his load as lost in the accident. He was cited for a logbook violation and load securement. He was not injured.

The right lane of westbound I-80 was blocked until approximately 4 a.m. for extrication and removal of the injured, towing of the vehicle and investigation of the crash.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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