Sentinel Staff Writer
October 2, 2007
The van laid down skid marks, veered across the street, obliterated a set of mailboxes and then swung wildly across the street, smashing into a palm tree.
At the wheel, according to police, was a 7-year-old girl sitting on her mother's lap.
The child was treated at Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford for a cut to her forehead, a scraped knee and burns to her neck and chin from the van's airbag, police said.
Her mother, Lisa Lavoie, 42, of Lake Mary, was hauled off to the Seminole County Jail, accused of felony child abuse. She posted $2,000 bond and was released a few hours later.
Police Chief Steve Bracknell said arresting the mom was the right thing to do.
"I've been around a long time. I don't know if I'd let a 7-year-old drive a car," he said Monday. "It's not a good thing." Police also contacted child-welfare authorities, who decided to leave the child in the custody of her parents.
The crash happened about 2:30 p.m. Saturday, a half-mile from the family's red brick home in northeast Lake Mary.
Lavoie told police that she put the child in her lap, without buckling her in, and let her steer and work the pedals, according to her arrest report.
The child must have mashed down the accelerator, which then seemed to get stuck, the mother told police.
The van, a 2003 Honda, took off and began veering from one side of the residential street to the other. The wild ride lasted about a block.
One set of community mailboxes knocked flat by the crash was still on its side Monday. The impact was so great that it shoved the concrete slab beneath it about three inches.
The palm tree, about 50 feet away, appeared largely undamaged, except for a bumper mark 2 feet above the ground.
Also in the van at the time of the crash was the child's father, Paul Lavoie, who suffered a cut to his head, according to the report. He was not charged.
None of the family could be reached for comment Monday.
Rene Stutzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-324-7294.