• Witness recalls drunk driver crashing near her house: ‘I thought it was an earthquake'

    By: Kevin McCarty


    Irmi McKinstry said when an unmarked Lakewood police patrol SUV landed behind her house, she feared the worst.

    “I thought it was an earthquake. Everything shook,” McKinstry said.

    It was around 9:00 the night of Sunday September 23rd and, according to Lakewood police, off-duty Officer Eric Bell crashed the SUV after dropping his kids off at his ex-wife's home.

    He was allegedly drunk, and the 89-year-old McKinstry said when she went to see if he was alright, Bell didn't want her to call 911.

    “I said, 'I'll call the police.' And he said no!” according to McKinstry. “So I went to my phone in here and called the police.”

    Asked if she thought Bell had been drinking, McKinstry said, “I thought he was, the way he said, 'I can’t get out' was kind of slurred.”

    Gig Harbor police responded and notified the state patrol, which is common procedure for small city departments when they handle DUI crashes.

    All the while, McKinstry said Bell was trapped inside the SUV. “He couldn’t get out. They had to come with a chainsaw,” she said. “It happened at 9. After 11, he finally got pulled out of there.”

    Nearly a month after the crash, the landscaping outside McKinstry's home has been repaired or replaced. She said she was shocked that a police officer would be accused of driving drunk.

    “Well, that is very, very irresponsible, very. And then he came to deliver his child somewhere? So that is very irresponsible.”

    The Lakewood Police Department released a statement saying Bell is on administrative leave while the incident is under investigation.


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