EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 4, 2009

Police: Driver was eating breakfast before collision

By Crystal Bozek

ANDOVER — A Lawrence woman whose car collided with a tractor-trailer Wednesday on River Road was more focused on her breakfast than her driving, police said.

Francisca Ayala, 37, of 40 Sullivan Ave., was eating a breakfast pastry out of a bowl with a fork when she suddenly veered into oncoming traffic, slamming into the back of the tractor-trailer and then hitting a car, Lt. James Hashem said.

Ayala is lucky to be alive, police said. Her Toyota Camry was crushed, but she received only minor injuries.

"Witnesses said she was looking in her lap at something when she drove over the solid double yellow lines," Hashem said.

Police cited Ayala with impeded operation and failure to keep to the right, he said.

Ayala was heading west on River Road near the Lawrence line about 9:10 a.m., when the accident occurred. She started to drift into the left lane.

Michael McKenna, 50, of Barrington, N.H., the truck's driver, told police he saw Ayala's car coming toward him and she appeared to be looking down.

The truck blew out its tires on the right side as it struck a curb while trying to avoid the oncoming car.

"He had pulled to his right as far as he could," Hashem said.

Ayala's car struck the back end of the truck and slid underneath before veering back into the right lane, where it hit a car driven by Andrew Duggan, 36, of Barberton, Ohio.

"Her car went right under the tires," Hashem said. "If she had gone any further under the vehicle, the tires would have passed over the passenger compartment. It could have been much, much worse. ... She's extremely lucky."

Because Ayala only received civil violations, she will only have to pay a fine and the accident will be reflected on her driving record through the Merit Rating Board.

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