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Westport Police Officer Stops Wrong-Way Driver Entering Merritt Parkway

Gina Heckel
Gina Heckel Photo Credit: Westport Police Department

WESTPORT, Conn. — A police officer who cut off a drunken driver heading the wrong way on a Merritt Parkway exit ramp Friday night may have prevented a tragedy, according to Westport police.

At around 9:15 p.m., Officer David Scinto saw a vehicle attempting to enter the Exit 41 northbound off ramp, according to Lt. Jillian Cabana.

Scinto put on his emergency lights and quickly drove up in front of the car, blocking it from the highway and stopping exiting vehicles from hitting the suspect’s vehicle head on.

Scinto directed the car to a nearby commuter lot, where he spoke to driver Gina Heckel, 49, of Fairfield, police said.

Scinto detected the odor of alcohol on Heckel’s breath and had her perform field sobriety tests, which she failed, police said. She as taken into custody.

While retrieving Heckel’s cell phone and purse, Scinto saw a half-empty bottle of vodka inside the car and some loose pills not prescribed to Heckel in her purse, police said.

At headquarters, Heckel was given a breathalyzer test, which found her to be over the legal limit, police said.

Heckel was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs, driving the wrong way on a highway, possession of narcotics and narcotic possession only in original container, police said.

She was released after posting $1,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in Norwalk Court on Jan. 8.

“Officer Scinto’s quick thinking and action prevented what could have been a tragic incident on the highway, not only for the party involved, but also for other innocent travelers,” Cabana said in a written statement. “We would like to remind the public not to drink and drive. If you plan on consuming alcohol over the New Year’s holiday, plan in advance to have a designated driver, hail a cab, use a ride app or call a friend for a ride home. There are plenty of options available; driving under the influence should not be one of them.”

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