Drunk driver who crashed into apartment building, nearly causing explosion, sent to jail.

September 12, 2017

Renee Masunas

Drunk driver who crashed into apartment building, nearly causing explosion, sent to jail.


By Allison Scarbrough. Editor.

LUDINGTON — A 40-year-old Hamlin Township woman who crashed into an apartment building while fleeing police last Memorial Day weekend, putting several lives in danger by almost causing a huge explosion, was sentenced Tuesday, Sept. 12, in 51st Circuit Court to serve three months up front of a one-year discretionary jail term and pay $5,885.36 in restitution.

Renee Pauline Masunas, of 7049 Illinois St., pleaded guilty last July to second-offense operating while intoxicated (OWI), fleeing and eluding police and domestic violence. A second count of domestic violence was dismissed.

Masunas, while “leaving the domestic situation and operating under the influence,” attempted to flee police, said Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola. “She made a turn off South Washington Street; went around the corner; and struck the building.” Masunas crashed into an apartment building at at 606 E. Danaher St.

Her vehicle crashed through the building housing several tenants, reaching the cinder block wall and narrowly avoiding hitting gas meters, Spaniola said. The accident created “a serious public health issue,” he added.

The building’s owner, David Hankwitz, addressed the court during Masuna’s sentencing and provided photos of the crash scene.

“You could have killed all six residents,” Hankwitz said to Masunas. “There could have been a huge explosion. You’ve got to change your life. You almost killed yourself and almost killed six people.”

Hankwitz said he had to relocate his tenants due to the crash.

Masunas’ truck ripped the electric mask off the building, Hankwitz told MCP. He had to call Consumers Energy at 3 a.m. to disconnect the gas lines.

“It was a miracle with gas flowing and electrical sparks, plus from live wires and the impact of the truck, that it didn’t ignite,” he said.

Sentencing guidelines in the case are 0-17 months.

Masuna’s blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of the crash was .156, Spaniola said.

“My client has taken this matter very seriously,” said Masuna’s attorney David Glancy, adding that Masunas has been “very cooperative.”

“This is not my normal character,” Masunas said to Judge Susan K. Sniegowski. “I know what I did was very irresponsible, and it could have been substantially worse. This is not an example of who I am or what I want to be.”

“You’re in a situation where you need to get help,” the judge said to Masunas. “You’re very lucky you didn’t kill yourself or others that night.”

Sniegowski also ordered two years of probation. She gave Masunas credit for five days already served in jail. The judge also ordered vehicle immobilization for 90 days and 360 hours of community service. The Secretary of State will determine driver’s license sanctions.

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