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Python around a woman's neck after crash, not in a usual day's work for New Hyde Park fire chief

Espinoza with snake

Espinoza with snake

There are plenty of expected, unexpected and just plain unusual emergencies that New Hyde Park firefighters face on a daily basis. It's safe to say that for Chief Steven Waldron and his crew, a Toyota Prius crashing into the firehouse, a woman behind the wheel with a pilfered pet store python around her neck, wasn't among them.

But that's what happened at about 7:10 p.m. Monday, Waldron and Nassau police said.

The woman, Sarah Espinosa, 22, whose last address was in Albany, was arrested by Nassau police officers shortly after the Prius crashed through the garage door of the Jericho Turnpike firehouse and came to a rest, only after slamming into a pair of fire engines, Waldron said Monday night.

Tuesday, Espinosa pleaded not guilty to multiple charges related to the crash including driving while intoxicated and petty larceny.

"She's a young girl who made a mistake," said a woman who was identified at the arraignment as Espinosa's mother but declined to give her name afterward."We all have made bad choices in our lives."

It was not clear Tuesday the age of the 2-foot black and brown python, whether it had a name or was a he or she. It was also unclear if the ball python -- a breed more likely found in Africa than a crash-damaged New Hyde Park firehouse -- sustained an injury. The python was returned to the Garden City Park Petco. The store was the python's home until Espinosa stole it, police said.

Waldron recalled the sounds of crashing and running to the firehouse front door.

He said he immediately saw something wrong with Espinosa.

She wasn't saying anything and was only semiconscious, Waldron said, adding there was one other oddity.

"She's got a 2-foot snake sitting on her chest," Waldron said. Later, he added, "I'm not one for snakes."

Fire personnel pulled her from the car and took her to Winthrop-University Medical in Mineola, where she was treated for minor injuries and released into police custody.

Espinosa, who has a bachelor's degree in English from University at Albany, according to her Legal Aid attorney Tara Madden, admitted she stole the snake -- valued at $89.99, prosecutors said.

After taking the python, police said Espinosa drove west on Jericho Turnpike, crossed over a center median, hit two signs and a car before slamming into the firehouse, according to prosecutors and court papers.

Firefighters also recovered an uninjured dog from the crash, "a tiny little thing," Waldron said. Along with the larceny and DWI charges, Espinosa was also charged with second-degree reckless endangerment, reckless driving and unlawful possession of marijuana, prosecutors said.

Judge Scott H. Siller granted the prosecution's request to suspend Espinosa's license. He held on her a bail of $5,000 cash or $5,000 bond. She is due back in court Wednesday.

With John Valenti


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