GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 21, 2008

Bullock crash draws worldwide attention

By Richard Gaines

A Gloucester woman is slated to be arraigned in Gloucester District Court today on drunken-driving charges stemming from a relatively minor, two-car accident that injured no one — but has nonetheless drawn worldwide attention, if not fascination.

The accused driver, Lucille Gatchell, 64, of 19A Starknaught Heights, has suddenly found herself connected with actress Sandra Bullock — a passenger in the sport utility vehicle that Gatchell's car hit Friday night — on television shows, newspaper reports and Web sites too numerous to catalog.

Bullock and her husband, Jesse James — a television celebrity from the automotive show, "Monster Garage" — were passengers in the SUV that police said was hit Friday night on East Main Street by Gatchell's station wagon.

Both vehicles were reported totaled, but the "totaling" damage was limited to the drivers' sides front sections. Both vehicles were traveling at legal speeds, no more than 20 miles an hour, according to witnesses and police.

But Gatchell — who was observed by a witness as having trouble keeping her car in her lane, police said — allegedly crossed the center line and hit the SUV carrying Bullock and her husband. They were being driven by Mark Hussey, a Londonderry, N.H., resident who has been identified as a member of Bullock's security team.

After police arrived, they said Gatchell blew a .20 on an alcohol breath tester, more than twice the legal limit, and was reported to be acting unsteady on her feet, slurring her speech and smelling of alcohol, all signs that resulted in her being booked on drunken-driving charges.

She told police she had had two glasses of wine.

Interest in the case has proved enormous because of the involvement of Bullock, who is on Cape Ann to make a Disney movie, "The Proposal," about a woman who tries to marry an American who works for her in order to avoid deportation.

In the movie, Bullock's character is a Canadian. Cape Ann is standing in for Alaska — the opposite of the classic 1966 comedy, "The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming," which was filmed elsewhere, but the location was as "Gloucester."

As of Monday evening, there were more than 82,000 entries on the Internet "covering" the story in one form or another.

"Entertainment Tonight," the CBS-produced syndicated celebrity news show, called the Times yesterday morning in search of "any photos of the accident," which the Times didn't have. So ET's Web site showed a copy of the police report, which contains no more facts than were provided in the news coverage.

The lack of a photo of either of the cars relegated the story to lower down the scroll of stories. In that vein, the Gloucester police report could be found just below coverage of Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham's 34th birthday party, which seemed to go off swimmingly with the likes of Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise, Usher, Diddy, Gwen Stefani, Eva Longoria Parker and Elton John on hand; Posh's husband, David Beckham, it seems was in L.A. with the kids watching the Lakers.

Filming of "The Proposal" continued yesterday at an indoor location on the Gloucester waterfront.

Gatchell did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Richard Gaines can be reached at rgaines@gloucestertimes.com