Friday night was a special evening for 18-year-old Shelby Girmscheid. Just not in the way she expected.
Like many teenagers across the country, Girmscheid was preparing for prom. The Thunder Mountain High School junior stood in front of her mirror, checking out her “blushy-pink” dress and high heels she had picked out for Saturday’s prom.
“I was at my little vanity, and I just heard a noise and something froze me. It’s all sort of a blur. I just remember trying to get out of my room. I remember screaming. Everybody in my family was screaming,” Girmscheid said.
A drunken driver had crashed through Girmscheid’s bedroom wall just inches from her. Driving his blue Dodge Caravan with 0.227 percent blood alcohol content, police said 50-year-old Lance Cesar had swerved off the road, knocked over a highway sign, struck a boulder and plowed through a 12-foot shed before pushing into the teen’s bedroom, causing about $40,000 in damage.
The family provided security camera footage that can be viewed on the Juneau Empire Facebook page.
Disoriented, Girmscheid was buried under her full-body mirror. She says she doesn’t remember much about the immediate aftermath.
“I had to get on a robe because I was in my prom dress. I went out to see what happened and I was in shock, I was freaking out. The responders were trying to calm me down, asking me if I was hurt,” Girmscheid said.
According to a Juneau Police Department release, Cesar fled the scene and tried to hide under a trailer near the crash site on Mendenhall Loop Road. He was apprehended within the hour and charged with Driving While Intoxicated and failure to provide immediate notice of a crash.
Girmscheid’s older sister, Cheyenne Girmscheid, and her fiancé Kenny Paquin, were asleep in the next room when the crash happened. Cheyenne and Shelby’s parents, Suzanna and Michael Lessard also live in the house with a 16-year-old son.
“All of a sudden we hear this crash, and everything just starts shaking,” Cheyenne said. “I heard my sister’s blood-curdling scream.”
When checking on his fiance’s sister, Paquin said he heard grunts coming from outside. He went around the back of the house to see who was out there.
Paquin located Cesar and tried to get him to sit down and wait for police. He said Cesar was disoriented, mumbling about having to go see his wife.
Cesar fled the scene on foot, and Paquin grabbed a flashlight and went after him, police said. A few neighbors had tracked the man to the trailer, which helped JPD apprehend Cesar.
About a year before the crash, the family had built a shed next to the house. They used the roughly 12×8 structure to house lawn mowers, snow blowers and bicycles.
That shed was virtually destroyed. Cesar’s Dodge was the only thing keeping the shed’s roof from caving completely. Responding officers had to erect a support beam to pull the Dodge from the wreckage safely.
“He hit it perfectly between two support beams, so the roof didn’t fall in at all,” Cheyenne said. “However, it did knock it (the house) off the foundation, so it’s actually kind of bowed on one side.”
Cheyenne thinks it will take a full remodel of the back of the house to fix all the damage.
Shelby was taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital for a medical exam and MRI. She said she didn’t suffer any serious injuries during the whole ordeal.
She’s still able to wear her blushy-pink prom dress, though she had to trade her heels in for flats because her ankle was bothering her.
“If the shed in my backyard wasn’t there, I probably wouldn’t be going to prom and I probably wouldn’t be here,” Girmscheid said. “That’s the main thing: don’t drink and drive.”
• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.