SARANAC LAKE - Multiple witnesses say a drunken woman angry at her ex-boyfriend crashed a sport-utility vehicle into the front of a downtown apartment building where he had sought refuge from her around 2:30 in the morning Sunday.
Village police arrested the woman and arraigned her in court but did not release her name or any other information Sunday. They said they expect to do so Monday morning.
Chris Baker is the tenant whose apartment front was smashed in. He lives on the ground floor of 12 Bloomingdale Ave., a 19th-century building known as the Leis Block, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. On Sunday afternoon, with his apartment patched up with tarps and 2-by-4s, he was sitting in the apartment of first-floor neighbor Barbara Darrah (pronounced "Dar"). Also there was Marlene Hare, Baker's second cousin and next-door neighbor, whose front door was also damaged by the crash.
Chris Baker stands in front of the demolished front of his apartment at 12 Bloomingdale Ave., Saranac Lake Sunday. A woman angry at her ex-boyfriend, a friend of Baker, reportedly drove a sport-utility vehicle into the building around 2:30 a.m. that day.
(Enterprise photo – Peter Crowley)
Baker said he was woken from a deep sleep around 2:30 a.m. by a friend knocking on his door.
"I got up, let him in, 'cause he stays with me once in a while," Baker said. "And the next thing I know, she's banging on the door, wanting me to let her in, and I said no."
"She" was someone Baker's friend had gone out with until recently. Each had a court restraining order to stay away from the other, Baker said, although that hadn't stopped them from dating recently.
"They've been broken up for about five days, six days," and she was angry at the man, Baker said.
After turning the woman away, Baker said he went to his bedroom in the back of the apartment to return to sleep. His friend followed him shortly afterward.
"He came out to tell me she was gone," Baker said. "The next thing we heard was a crash through the door - her vehicle."
The woman had driven the large SUV, which Baker described as a Suburban, over a snowbank-covered curb and into the bay window and door to Baker's apartment, which was completely destroyed. Neither Baker nor his friend was hurt. It's not clear whether the woman was.
The crash woke several neighbors, who came out to see what was going on. Police and an ambulance crew came as well. Darrah said the woman did not go quietly.
"She was fighting with everybody that was trying to help her," Darrah said. "They had to put the handcuffs on her" to get her on the ambulance gurney.
It was obvious the woman had been drinking, according to Baker.
"You could smell it right on her," he said.
Darrah and Hare said they were surprised the vehicle didn't look badly damaged. None of its glass was broken, they said, not even the windshield.
Hare said it's not the kind of event she expects in Saranac Lake.
"You see that in the city," she said. "You don't think it's going to happen at your house.
"There's too many bars on this corner," she added.
"Yes, there is," Baker responded.
Right across Bloomingdale Avenue is Romano's Saranac Lanes, a bowling alley with a bar. Within eyesight across Broadway are two more bars: Captain Cook's and the Rusty Nail. Baker said he heard the woman had been at Romano's.
Romano's owner Jeff Romano said the woman had left his establishment two to three hours before the incident. When she returned later, looking drunk, he said a bartender refused to serve her more alcohol, giving her a glass of water instead. Romano said he knows this both from his bartender and from checking the security videos. He was there that night but was working in the back office.
"She almost hit my car," he said.
Charlie Nicastro, who owns the apartment building at 12 Broadway, said he showed up at the scene around 3 a.m. and that his son C.J. was there until 6 a.m. securing the hole in the building's front against the elements.
Not all the building's tenants were woken by the crash. Cindy Elleman, who lives on the second floor just above Baker, said she slept right through it. She said she was tired because she had been awake the whole night before; she went to sleep around 6 p.m. Saturday.
"My mother couldn't believe I slept through it," she said.
She woke up around 3:30 a.m. to the sound of the building maintenance man's truck, but she didn't know what he was there for. Later that morning when she came downstairs, neighbors told her about the incident.
"I thought, my God, I don't know if I want to go back upstairs because that's what's holding me up," she laughingly said of the now-missing walls beneath her apartment's front window. "It doesn't feel too comfortable walking about upstairs because I feel like I'm going to fall though."
As for Baker, even if he could have entered his apartment Sunday afternoon, he said he wasn't allowed to because it was considered a crime scene. He said he had people he could stay with temporarily, but beyond that he wasn't sure what he was going to do.
"I don't have any food right now," he said.