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Bond denied for felony charges against driver in crash that injured six children

Posted: June 27, 2017 - 11:22am  |  Updated: June 28, 2017 - 11:37am
Tara McConnell, 46, of Martinez had a blood alcohol content level of .394 at the time of the crash.
Tara McConnell, 46, of Martinez had a blood alcohol content level of .394 at the time of the crash.

(Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated bond was set on the six felony charges of serious injury by vehicle. Bond was denied on the six felony charges.)

Columbia County Magistrate Court denied bond on six felony counts of serious injury by vehicle, filed against a Martinez woman accused of causing a crash while driving drunk with six unrestrained children in the car with her.

Tara McConnell, 46, appeared before Chief Magistrate Judge Jason Troiano, Tuesday, and was denied bond on the felony charges. McConnell is also facing 16 additional traffic charges, including DUI, with bond rates set at $1,100 each.

Troiano stated after the hearing McConnell's bond was originally set at $5,000 at an initial court hearing June 5, however due to the ongoing severity of the injuries sustained by two of the six children, bond was later revoked.

McConnell's charges will now be presented to a grand jury for indictment.  

The charges stem from a crash in which McConnell failed to yield to oncoming traffic before her car was struck in the side, seriously injuring six children, including one of her own. The crash left one child paralyzed and another with a traumatic brain injury and is still unable to speak. Both continue to undergo recovery at an Atlanta children's hospital.

At the preliminary hearing, Tuesday, Columbia County sheriff's Deputy Scott Curry was called before the court to describe the scene where the crash happened at the intersection of Belair and Columbia roads, June 5.

Curry said he arrived around 3:22 p.m. to the Circle K gas station and saw four children laying outside of the vehicle on the ground, bleeding and screaming. Two more children, Arwen and Violet Bargeron, were trapped inside, unconscious, pinned in the front seat by the dashboard. McConnell was found walking around the crash site.

When Curry questioned McConnell about how much she had to drink, Curry said McConnell stated she had one glass of wine earlier in the day. The results of a blood test taken from McConnell at the scene revealed her blood alcohol content at the time of the crash was .394.

After questioning the children at the hospital who were physically able to speak, all three children gave Curry the same story - that they told McConnell the truck was coming to which she replied she was going to beat it.

Curry told the court that none in the car were wearing seatbelts and he described where the children were seated when the crash happened and the injuries they sustained.

The brother of Arwen and Violet Bargeron, Matthew Bargeron, 10, was one of four in the back seat of the car. He sustained a broken arm and deep laceration to the head. Seated next to him was Preston McConnell, the 11-year-old son of the driver, suffered a fractured pelvis. Seated next to him was Madeline Elliott, 11, who suffered a broken back and other lacerations. And next to her was Jeremiah Elliott, 11, who suffered a broken arm which required surgery, among other lacerations.

Eleven year-old Arwen Bargeron was in the front seat with her younger sister Violet Bargeron, 6, on her lap. Arwen suffered a traumatic brain injury and was in a coma for several days. Curry said she is still unable to speak. Violet suffered a lacerated liver and broken back which caused permanant paralysis from the breast bone down.

Additional charges against McConnell include six counts of endangering child under 14 years of age while driving under the influence, two counts of driving under the influence, six counts of lack of safety belts; safety restraints for children, reckless driving and failure to yield while turning left. 

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