An intoxicated McLean woman drove at high speed for five miles down a popular Northern Virginia recreational trail Saturday night, sending trail users scrambling for safety before the car struck and seriously injured a bicyclist, police said.
Mehak Chopra, 28, was arrested about 8:30 p.m. in Vienna, near where the Washington & Old Dominion Trail intersects Maple Avenue, Fairfax County police said. Chopra was charged with driving while intoxicated and felony hit-and-run, and she could not be reached Sunday as she remained in custody pending arraignment.
Police said a 65-year-old Vienna man who was riding a bike on the trail was struck from behind just west of the town’s limits and was thrown to the shoulder of the trail. Police have not named the man, and a police spokeswoman did not know his condition Sunday afternoon.
The trail covers 45 miles from Arlington to Purcellville, and close-in stretches can be packed with joggers and cyclists, particularly on weekends. Police said they think Chopra drove her 2005 Honda onto the trail in the Reston area, heading east. The stretch of trail between Reston and Vienna is about 10 feet wide and paved with asphalt.
As the car made its way toward Vienna, police said they received multiple calls from trail users who said they had nearly been hit by a speeding vehicle.
The car narrowly missed Libby Mosher, 13, and her father, Jeffrey. As they walked east along the trail toward Clarks Crossing Road, Libby glanced behind her and saw headlights.
“He just told me to jump,” Libby said. “So I jumped.”
They cleared the trail seconds before the car passed, she said.
Moments later, Vienna resident Veronica Spina, 54, saw what she initially thought was a police car approaching her as she took her cockapoo, Joey, for his evening walk on the trail several blocks west of Maple. She estimated that the car was traveling at about 50 mph.
“I had just enough time to jump into the bushes,” Spina said. “It missed me by a foot. I felt the whoosh of the wind from the car [passing by].”
Spina said she suffered minor scratches. Her dog was unhurt.
Fairfax resident Veronique Klimonda, 55, was sitting on a park bench near Maple when the car raced past and stopped briefly after it struck an object at the intersection. The car then darted into traffic on Maple, turning northeast toward Tysons Corner and McLean.
The driver “was looking straight ahead, hands gripping the steering wheel, just totally oblivious,” Klimonda said. “It was quite obvious she was not there. She was somewhere else in her head.”
Chopra was stopped and arrested about two blocks away.
Officer Gary Lose, a spokesman for Vienna police, said he did not know of another instance of a driver traveling an extended distance on the trail.
“We’ve had people turn off Maple Avenue [onto the trail], but they usually realize right away, ‘Whoops, this isn’t a road,’ ” Lose said.
Lose estimated that 40 or 50 people were using the trail in the Vienna area when the car drove through.