As her house was engulfed in flames, a woman stole a police cruiser at the scene and drove it off an overpass, plunging about 30 feet onto Interstate 40 last week, Kingston Springs Sgt. Jeremy Vaughan said.
Janet Givens, 64, allegedly stole the SUV as Kingston Springs emergency personnel were responding to an early-morning fire Jan. 12 at her Wax Wing Circle home.
There were no deaths or external-trauma injuries from the fire or the crash, though Givens was treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center for possible inhalation burns, as there was soot in her nose, Vaughan said by phone the day after the fire.
The fire started in a bedroom, and there was evidence of an accelerant on the floor, Vaughan said. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation was assisting in the fire investigation, TBI spokeswoman Susan Niland confirmed.
When first responders arrived at the fire scene shortly before 5 a.m., the house near the end of the cul-de-sac was engulfed in flames, and Givens was standing outside, “very hysterical, screaming,” Vaughan said.
“She was standing in her pajamas, no shoes, no jacket,” Vaughan said
She was allowed to sit in the back of a Kingston Springs Police Department vehicle, with its engine running, to keep warm, he said. Then she got in the driver’s seat of the SUV, though there’s no video showing how, Vaughan said.
An officer saw her steal the cruiser and alerted fire units in the area to set up a roadblock, Vaughan said. Givens skirted the roadblock, sideswiping a fire truck and causing minimal damage to that vehicle, Vaughan said.
Then she went up the overpass that carries Fairview-Kingston Springs Road traffic over I-40, where she encountered ice and lost control, Vaughan said.
The vehicle rammed through the guardrail on the east side of the overpass and dropped about 30 feet, landing in an eastbound lane of the highway, said Vaughan, who was the first to respond on the Interstate.
“She was lying across the front seat” and conscious when Vaughan arrived, he said.
“It’s amazing she was not struck by another vehicle,” Vaughan said.
She wasn’t wearing a seat belt, Vaughan said.
The crash was officially reported at 4:52 a.m., and the I-40 eastbound lanes were closed for about two hours.
The police cruiser was totaled, Vaughan said.
Three dogs trained to sniff for bodies were brought to the fire scene, Vaughan said. The house was a total loss, he said, and little more than a charred shell along with piles of debris could be seen from the road.
The dogs alerted investigators to human remains, but those turned out to be the cremated remains of Givens’ mother, who had died months ago, Vaughan said.
All other known family members of Givens were accounted for, and the dogs gave no other signal other, he said.
Givens remained at VUMC on Jan. 13 and was expected to be charged with theft and evading police, Vaughan said.
The Cheatham County Sheriff’s Office was investigating the crash because it occurred outside the Kingston Springs corporate limits, Vaughan said.
A CCSO lieutenant was set to interview Givens at the hospital, Vaughan said.