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NC mother accused of driving drunk, crashing car into river with children inside

Posted at 9:16 PM, Jul 27, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-27 21:18:47-04

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — State troopers arrested a Gastonia woman after she crashed her car into the South Catawba Fork River while her children were in the back seat.

Troopers told WSOC-TV that Connie Jo Penland, 26, was impaired when she failed to stop at the “T” intersection at Lowell Spencer Mountain Road and Sutton Carpenter Road. The crash happened around 12:30 a.m. Saturday.

Connie Jo Penland, 26, of Gastonia

Connie Jo Penland, 26, of Gastonia

Penland’s children, 6 and 7, were in the back seat. Troopers said 8 inches of water were in the car when they first arrived.

Troopers said the suspect was so belligerent she thought she was in Kings Mountain, nearly 30 minutes away, and yelled at first responders.

She’s charged with DWI, reckless driving and two counts of child abuse.

“It’s sad she was drinking and not thinking about those kids’ lives,” said Rachel Moore, a resident who lives at the intersection where the crash happened.

All three occupants of the car were taken to the hospital. Officials said Penland had abrasions to her face, legs and arms.

Troopers said there was no information on the status of the children besides that they had been turned over to their aunt. Both children were wearing seat belts at the time of the incident.

As of Saturday evening, Penland was being held in Gaston County Jail on $25,000 bond. She has court planned on Aug. 18.