Suspect in court for wrong way crash on I-787

COLONIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – An accused wrong way drunk driver pleaded guilty in Colonie Town Court on Monday.

State Police said 53-year-old Kathleen Heilmann, of Clifton Park, had a blood alcohol content nearly three times the legal limit when she was driving south on the northbound side of 787 near exit 9W on February 25.

Police said she caused a driver to swerve out of the path of her car sending him and his passenger into a snow bank. The people inside the vehicle were then rescued by a passerby.

Kathleen Heilmann
Kathleen Heilmann

Police said Heilmann kept driving until she was arrested for DWI in Colonie.

Heilmann pleaded guilty to DWI, Aggravated DWI, Leaving the Scene of an Accident, Driving the Wrong Way on a One Way Road, and Failing to Notify DMV of an Address Change on Tuesday. Dawn Witecki of Cohoes was a passenger of the vehicle that swerved to avoid Heilmann that night.

“We circled around twice, hit the pile of snow, and flipped over onto the snow bank and that’s when the car started to crush into the snow,” she recalled.

Witecki said she’ll never forget her brush with death.

“I couldn’t sleep, and then I was afraid to get in my car and drive,” she said.

Her brother, Joseph Kelly, was driving the car. He had just purchased it a few weeks before, but it was totaled in the accident.

“That car is gone now,” Witecki said. “He didn’t have collision insurance on that, and you know, we do have a loss. We have a financial loss, you know.”

Kelly said he is still without a vehicle.

Heilmann’s license was suspended for one year, and she must pay more than $1,000 in fines. But Witecki questions if the punishment will ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“Is that really enough?” Witceki said. “I don’t know.”

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