ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Nearly eight months after it happened, KRQE News 13 is getting a glimpse at the aftermath of a serious ATV crash that ended with an Albuquerque Police officer charged with DWI and ultimately fired from the department. That crash nearly killed the former officer’s wife. Court records show just last week, he took a plea deal in the case with the court dismissing the DWI charge.
KRQE Investigates obtained the police video that shows how the investigation unfolded. Lapel video shows officers responding to a crash in northwest Albuquerque last May. “How’d you get that injury to your head?” An APD officer asked the male passenger.
“Uh, we took a tumble,” Donald Correia responded. His head was bleeding from a gaping head wound at the time.
Witnesses called 911 saying an ATV flew past them on their neighborhood road going as fast as it could, lost control on a turn, and plowed into a cinderblock wall. Video shows the wall smashed in as police and rescue crews arrived on the scene.
“You could tell she was trying to take the turn going way too fast, and the ATV started getting speed wobbles, and they hit the curb and they flew 30 feet,” a witness told APD. He said he watched the couple fly from the ATV and land in a dirt lot nearby.
The witnesses ran to help and called 911. Albuquerque Fire Rescue was first on the scene and rushed the female ATV driver to the hospital. Witnesses said the male passenger, later identified as 48-year-old Donald Correia, was discombobulated. He insisted on flipping over the ATV, then drove off as his wife Danielle lay dying.
“He was gone,” the witness told police. “He got on the ATV and drove away. He left her.” “Wow. OK,” the officer replied.
When Correia walked back to the scene, AFR and APD noticed his gaping head wound. Correia refused to be transported to the hospital, insisting he’d be “fine.” The first-responding officers didn’t realize at the time, they were talking to one of their own.
Correia was an officer assigned to APD’s Aviation Division as a helicopter mechanic. Police were called to the crash scene because witnesses smelled alcohol on the Correias immediately after the crash, and found a loaded gun at the scene.
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“I grabbed the gun and had my wife go to the car and lock the doors,” said the witness.
When APD officers arrived, an AFR medic told police, “I have his handgun in my fire truck. He may just be a guy who carries when he goes out riding, I have no idea. But it could be something else.”
Rescue crews said Correia’s wife was rushed to UNM Hospital with a brain bleed, collapsed lung, and broken ribs. Despite what witnesses said, Correia denied drinking before the crash.
“I’m concerned,” a medic told Correia immediately after the crash. “Do you possibly have any drug or alcohol on your – have you been drinking? It’s the holiday weekend, had a couple drinks?” She asked.
Correia replied, “No ma’am. No.”
“Any drugs, anything?” She followed-up. “No,” Correia said.
Correia later told police he drove the ATV home after the crash, downed some fireball whiskey, then walked back to the crash site after police had arrived. A breath test showed he was drunk. He was booked and charged with DWI, tampering with evidence, and negligent use of a deadly weapon. Then just last week, court documents show he pled guilty to tampering with evidence, a petty misdemeanor.
The other two charges were dropped. An APD spokesperson said Correia was fired from APD in November. His wife is still seriously injured, and out of the hospital. Investigators said they did not draw her blood to see if she’d been drinking at the time of the crash due to the severity of her injuries. However, they could still subpoena that from the hospital.