SMITHTOWN - Suffolk County police say that what started with a couple of routine calls early this morning ended with an intense hunt for an escaped psychiatric patient and an alleged drunken driver smashing into a police cruiser.
Police say the ordeal began with a minor two-car crash at the intersection of Route 347 and Plaisted Avenue in Smithtown. A patrol car in the area that was transporting a psychiatric patient to the hospital stopped to help out at the accident scene.
As the officers attended to the accident victims and set up road flares, the handcuffed psychiatric patient managed to escape the patrol car. The escape set off a search that included help from a police helicopter.
Tow trucks were removing the cars from the accident and police were searching for the missing patient when an alleged drunken driver, identified as 37-year-old Bernadette Romeo, sped down the road and slammed into a stopped patrol car. Police say she had a blood alcohol level of .126, although she pleaded not guilty to DWI charges today.
Officials say the missing psychiatric patient was found at his Deer Park home a short time later. They say he never committed a crime and was merely being taken to the hospital for evaluation, and they add that the community was never in danger.