Ambulance driver who ran over five pilgrims – killing one, precipitating death of another – “should never drive ambulances again”

Female driver attached to ‘Bombeiros’ has been driving ambulances since incident

A female ambulance driver who, following a party in which she drank too much alcohol and consumed cannabis, drove into a group of pilgrims, killing one and precipitating the death of another, has heard that she must serve jail time, and should never be allowed to drive ambulances again. 

The woman had told the court that returning to work after the incident in 2018 had helped her, as it was a way of “doing her best” (atoning for the fact that she had actually removed one of her victims from underneath her car before driving on…)

But the court decided there were no sufficiently mitigating circumstances to avoid a custodial sentence.

59-year-old teacher Álvaro Meyer was killed outright in the incident in the early hours of May 20, 2018, and another victim, an elderly woman, was rendered tetraplegic. She has since died.

The horror played out near Moitas Venda, Alcanena, as the religious party made its way to worship at Fátima.

The unnamed ambulance driver, attached to the Bombeiros Voluntários service and aged 27 at the time, told the court during her trial that she did not remember anything about the incident.

After removing the injured victim from underneath her car, she got back into it and continued driving. She went on to hit the central reservation of the nearby A23 motorway while driving in the wrong direction, effectively into any oncoming traffic.

The accident, however, is now over four years in the past. The woman’s defence counsel asked for a suspended jail sentence because of her client’s place in society; her lack of previous convictions; the responsibility to her young child, etc.

But it was not to be.

The collective of judges at Santarém Criminal Court stressed they could not come to any other decision, advising the woman, now aged 30, to “make use of the time (in jail) to ponder what happened and review her life in future”.

President of the panel, Judge Sérgio Sousa suggested this life “should not involve the driving of vehicles, even less the driving of ambulances as currently is the case”, reports Lusa.

Judge Sousa referred to the “scourge” that road accidents represent in Portugal, stressing that in 2018 675 people died on the roads, a number he considered “staggering”.

The five-and-a-half year sentence passed is open to appeal, Lusa concludes. Also handed down was a two-and-a-half year driving ban.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com