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Driver Charged After SUV Crashes Into Pearl River Home’s Gas Meter, Igniting Fire As Family Slept Inside

PEARL RIVER, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A driver is facing charges after his vehicle crashed into a home in Rockland County overnight, setting off a fire as a family of five was sleeping inside.

The inside of the McMahon home on Sickletown Road in Pearl River is charred beyond recognition. Flames devoured the split level house where Martin and Una McMahon were asleep inside with their three children.

“It’s pretty bad,” Martin McMahon told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell. “Everything upstairs is burned. My 15-year-old was sleeping by the window.”

It was just after  2 a.m. Friday when their 21-year-old daughter spotted the first sign of danger.

“Our daughter Orla had seen a car coming towards the house,” Una McMahon said. “She has seen lights coming towards the house and she screamed.”

Moments later, the enormous crash.

“Big huge noise,” Martin McMahon said. “Everybody woke up and everybody started screaming get out.”

Police say the driver, 33-year-old Jude Donnelly of Blauvelt, was on his way home and speeding when he lost control, careening into the house just inches below their son’s bedroom. The SUV hit the home’s gas valve.

“It has smashed into the gas meter, knocked the top of the gas line and the gas was flowing in into a fire,” said Mike Donovan with Orange and Rockland Utilities.

The SUV was suspended from the exterior wall as the flames grew larger.

“Our big concern was there was somebody in the car. We tried to open the door, break the windows to no avail,” said Martin McMahon. “Silly of us to try to figure there was someone in the car — he had already done a runner.”

Police said Donnelly took off, apparently running from the scene. Police later found him at his house, where he was questioned.

“Someone very easily could have gotten killed,” said Orangetown Police Capt. Donald Butterworth.

The McMahons are now without a home, but relieved to have all survived unhurt.

“We’ll figure something out,” Una McMahon said. “We have a good neighborhood here, a good town, good friends and we’re gonna call in all the troops and get advice from everybody.”

Police said Donnelly has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident and other traffic violations.

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