A Niagara Falls woman is lucky she was stopped for drunken driving in Orchard Park early Sunday morning or she may have faced a much worse fate.
An observant off-duty Orchard Park Police detective saw Annie J. Burns, 25, of Niagara Falls, driving her black 2013 Chevrolet sedan on Armor Duells Road at 2:15 a.m. The car was missing a single front tire and was being driven on its rim. As the rim dragged along the road it emitted heavy sparks in the front wheel well.
Patrol Lt. Patrick Rizzo said Burns’ car had “absolutely no front tire” just a damaged rim and Burns was unable to remember how she had lost it. There was no sign that she had struck another vehicle and there are no curbs on those roads, Rizzo added.
A marked patrol car caught up with Burns as she continued onto Jewett Holmwood Road and stopped the car. While Burns was still seated behind the wheel, the sedan caught fire. The officer was able to immediately pull the woman out of the car.
The Orchard Park Fire Department was called to put out the fire, but the vehicle still sustained heavy damage, according to police.
There were no injuries to Burns or the patrol officers.
Rizzo said he’s been on the force for 17 years and has seen people drive on flat tires, but has never seen a car being driven with no tire. Nor has he seen that type of car fire.
“The friction that was generated – that’s what started the fire, but I’ve never seen that before. This is a first for me,” said Rizzo.
He added, “A lot of people hate us. They don’t like the idea of getting arrested obviously, but it’s thankful that she got stopped.”
Rizzo said the driver was en route to a friend’s house in Orchard Park, and if she had pulled into a garage or next to the house, it could have been much worse.
“This [car] went up pretty quickly. It was a substantial fire in the wheel well which heated up the engine and started the car on fire,” he added.
Burns failed field sobriety tests and was charged with driving while intoxicated and other traffic violations. A blood alcohol test found her level was .14 percent, nearly twice the legal limit of .08.
Burns is set to appear in Orchard Park Town Court at a later date.