CONNELLY SPRINGS — A woman charged in a Thursday afternoon fatal car crash claims she wasn’t driving the car when it wrecked.
Howard Lail, 60, was killed in the crash, which was investigated by Trooper J.D. Ellis, said Trooper G.N. Gentieu with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. Lail was ejected from the car, which rolled between four and five times in the crash.
April Heather Arriola, 32, of Old 70 Loop, was driving the car when it crashed on Miller Bridge Road between Knobby Lail Road and JR Hoyle Avenue at around 4 p.m., Gentieu said.
But Arriola told The News Herald when she was charged Thursday night that she wasn’t driving the car at the time of the crash.
Gentieu said two witnesses said she was driving, and that the driver’s seat was pulled up to accommodate a shorter person, like Arriola, who is about 5-feet tall. Lail was around 6-feet tall.
“Who are the two witnesses and it doesn’t matter what they said,” Arriola said after being charged at the magistrate’s office. “Howard Lee Lail is still deceased and that I regret more than life itself as it is.”
She said she loved Lail.
“I wish it was me and not him,” Arriola said.
Arriola has been charged with careless and reckless driving, driving while impaired and driving while license revoked, Gentieu said. Felony charges are pending while troopers wait on blood results to come back.
The car was going between 60-65 mph in a 45 mph zone, Gentieu said. Arriola was wearing a seat belt, but Lail wasn’t.
“If that passenger was wearing a seat belt, this was probably a survivable crash for him,” Gentieu said.
A bottle of vodka and beer cans were found along the road after the crash, but troopers couldn’t confirm that those came from Arriola’s car.
Arriola has previous convictions of possession with intent to sell schedule III controlled substance, maintaining a place for a controlled substance, possession with intent to sell or deliver counterfeit controlled substance and larceny, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety website.
More information will be published as it becomes available.