Car tears through town
By Tram Whitehurst, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Date: April 19, 2012
A lone driver in a Suburban careened through the streets of east Jackson Wednesday morning, clipping at least one stop sign and car before crashing through a fence and coming to rest in May Park.
The driver, Margaret Mary Aeckerle, 66, of Jackson, was charged with driving while under the influence of a controlled substance and property destruction/defacement.
Jackson Police Department officers found Aeckerle at May Park, where they noticed she seemed impaired and where she admitted she had taken prescription drugs before driving, police Sgt. Cole Nethercott said.
Officers determined she was too impaired to drive and took her into custody, Nethercott said.
“We believe she was under the influence of prescription drugs,” he said.
Witnesses described a chaotic and dangerous scene spread across several blocks in east Jackson. The rampage prompted multiple 911 calls, Nethercott said.
Paul Bruun was on East Kelly Avenue when he saw the green Chevrolet Suburban heading east on the wrong side of the road. He could tell the vehicle was obviously out of control and noticed that it had a flat front tire and was missing a side mirror. It was moving along at about 35 miles per hour, he said.
“After it went rushing by, you kind of thought somebody was chasing them,” he said. “It was kind of like a movie or something you see on the late-night news.”
He followed the Suburban in his own vehicle as it continued east on Kelly and then turned south on Redmond Street, Bruun said. Aeckerle abruptly made a U-turn and headed north.
As it made the turn, it hit a large truck with a Deerfield Academy sticker, Bruun said.
There wasn’t much he could do but watch and hope no one else was hit, he said.
“Whatever was happening to this car was beyond our control,” Bruun said. “We hadn’t been to the FBI driving school.”
Jackson Town Councilor Mark Obringer, who was also in a vehicle, first saw the Suburban as it made the turn onto Redmond. He watched as it drifted into a yard, returned to the road and then hit a truck. He too started to follow.
The SUV made a right turn onto East Hansen Avenue, Obringer said, where it continued to swerve through the road until it crashed through the fence at May Park.
“As much as I would like to get rid of the fence at May Park, I’m not sure if having a car crash through it is the best approach,” he said.
A street sweeper that happened to be in the neighborhood blocked the Suburban in so it could not leave the park, Bruun and Obringer said.
Retracing the path of the Suburban on Wednesday afternoon, some of the damage witnesses described was still evident.
There was a temporary stop sign installed at the corner of South Cache Street and East Kelly Avenue, and a white Subaru Outback parked on East Kelly appeared to have been struck.
In addition, a section of chain-link fence bordering May Park was broken, and tire tracks marred the park grass.
Nethercott said police have evidence Aeckerle hit at least one stop sign and possibly two, at least one parked vehicle and possibly two, a retaining wall on Kelly and the fence at May Park.
Police do not know where she was before the first 911 call and are continuing the investigation to determine exactly what happened, Nethercott said.
— Emma Breysse contributed to this report.