Collier County woman suspected of DUI crash that hospitalized passenger

Published: January 20, 2023 2:47 PM EST
Updated: January 23, 2023 9:29 AM EST
Sarah Higgins, 26. Credit: Collier County Sheriff's office

A Collier County woman was arrested on Thursday after troopers say she was found responsible for a DUI crash on I-75 that hospitalized her passenger the day before Hurricane Ian made landfall.

According to Florida Highway Patrol, Sarah Higgins, 26, was arrested after an investigation that began with FHP responding to a crash just after midnight in the southbound lanes of I-75 just north of Golden Gate Parkway on Sept. 27. They saw a black Mitsubishi in the grassy shoulder of the road pinned against a light pole on the west side of I-75. The front right of the vehicle had collided with the light pole, causing around $2,500 in damage to the pole, disabling the vehicle and entrapping the man in the passenger seat.

A woman, later identified as Higgins, was sitting on the ground next to the driver’s side door. FHP tried to extract the man but couldn’t. He was yelling, crying, and pleading with FHP to leave him inside because of the excruciating pain he was in. The man said he shouldn’t have let “her” drive, clarifying that “Sarah” was driving the vehicle.

Higgins told FHP she had been driving the black Mitsubishi home. Deputies say a strong odor of alcohol was coming off her breath, her clothing, and her vehicle. They later found an empty bottle of E&J peach brandy inside. EMS personnel arrived, and Higgins was asked to stand up for examination by professional medical staff.

As Higgins rose to her feet, she seemed to be impaired: fumbling with her driver’s license, repeating questions, swaying, leaning on the vehicle and light pole for balance, mumbling speech that was incoherent at times, and being slow to respond to EMS staff. Her face was flushed, and her eyes were bloodshot and watery.

The entire roof of the vehicle had to be cut and removed in order to extricate the passenger, who was in serious condition. He and Higgins were taken to NCH Baker via Collier EMS.

At the hospital, Higgins told law enforcement that she had taken “one shot of E&J” earlier that night. While field sobriety tests had not been performed for practical reasons, Higgins provided a blood sample, which showed a BAC of around 0.094.

Higgins faces charges of DUI with serious bodily injury, DUI with property damage, and DUI.