Crime & Courts

Gaston woman arrested after crash in river, 2 children safe in back seat

State troopers arrested a Gaston County woman Saturday after her car, with two children in back, crashed down an embankment and came to rest partially in the South Fork Catawba River.

Connie Jo Penland, 26, of Dallas, was traveling north on Lowell Spencer Mountain Road when she failed to stop at a stop sign at Dallas Spencer Mountain Road, according to N.C. Highway Patrol Trooper W.T. Davis. The crash occurred at 12:31 a.m. Saturday.

The front of the car came to rest in the river, with about 8 inches of water in the passenger seat, Davis said. Penland’s daughter, 7, and son, 6, were wearing seat belts.

All three were taken to CaroMont Regional Medical Center and released after treatment, he said.

Davis said Penland had been drinking alcohol and was “profane and belligerent” with state troopers, paramedics, hospital staff and jail staff. But, he added, “It wasn’t an issue where this woman intentionally drove her car into the river with the kids in the car.”

Penland was charged with driving while impaired, reckless driving and two counts of child abuse. Davis said Penland had abrasions on her face, legs and arms.

He did not know the extent of injuries to the children, but he said none were evident. The children were turned over to their aunt, Davis said.