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Wrong-way driver sentenced to 90 days

A woman who drove drunk the wrong way down the Long Island Expressway in November 2010, hitting another car and injuring its driver, will spend 90 days in jail, a Nassau judge said Thursday.

Katelyn A. O'Connell, 23, of Westbury, wept as she told Nassau County Judge Tammy Robbins she was sorry. Her lawyer said outside court that she's grateful that no one was seriously hurt in the crash, which made headlines at the time because it followed a wrong-way crash on Long Island that killed a police officer.

"She's very sorry it happened, and she realized how much worse it could have been," said the lawyer, Joseph Carbone of Westbury.

The driver of the other vehicle, a 27-year-old father of three from Queens who suffered only minor injuries in the crash, did not attend O'Connell's sentencing.

O'Connell pleaded guilty in March to aggravated drunken driving and reckless endangerment, both misdemeanors, said prosecutor James Cole.

A series of frantic calls from drivers on the Long Island Expressway in Nassau County began streaming into a 911 dispatch center at 5:02 a.m. Nov. 16, 2010, reporting that a car was going west in the eastbound lanes, police said at the time. Within three minutes, a caller describing the car to an operator saw it collide with something near Exit 34 in North Hills, police said.

The near-head-on collision sent both cars spinning and scattered debris over several lanes, police said. The force of the collision knocked one of the westbound car's tires about two-tenths of a mile east down the highway, police said.

The crash came just one day after NYPD Officer Andre Menzies, heading home from work, was killed by a wrong-way driver on the Northern State Parkway. That driver was charged with drunken driving.

Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement: "We've seen the deadly consequences of drunk wrong-way drivers time and again. We will continue to prosecute these offenses as zealously as the law allows, and we have proposed new legislation that reflects the seriousness of these crimes."

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