LOWELL (CBS) – A 17-year-old was allegedly huffing compressed air while driving when she struck two pedestrians in Lowell on Sunday.

Catherine Gaudette, of Dracut, is accused of hitting 45-year-old Doris Milagro-Ortiz and 22-year-old Tina Phoeuth on Mammoth Street Sunday afternoon. She faces numerous charges, including Assault and Battery with a Dangerous Weapon Causing Serious Bodily Injury (2 counts) and Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle.

Gaudette, who was riding with 17-year-old Andrew Dubois and two male juveniles, was allegedly inhaling vapors of compressed air, which is commonly used to clean computer keyboards. Breathing in the chemical difluoroethane, which is found in compressed air, can give users a “high.”

WBZ-TV’s Christina Hager reports

When victims’ relatives got word that the accident was caused by a teenager allegedly huffing, they were shocked. “Someone’s ignorance now has someone’s life on the line and you can’t take it back. It’s irreversible,” says Doris Milagro-Ortiz’s brother, Francisco Ortiz.

She is at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in a coma. Her son says he’s been talking to her every day, hoping she’ll wake up, but doctors say there’s no guarantee she’ll even recognize him if she opens her eyes. “It’s terrifying to know that still today, people are still thinking of doing stupid stuff like that,” says her son Jonathan Ortiz.

Doctors say teenagers should learn a lesson from the tragedy. “Kids who come to our program usually know that driving after drinking alcohol is not a good idea, but they underestimate the risk of driving after using other substances,” says Dr. Sharon Levy, who heads up Children’s Hospital’s Adolescent Substance Abuse program. “One of the issues about inhalants is that they’re readily accessible.” Levy says huffing can lead to permanent nerve damage and can even be fatal.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Jim Smith reports

Gaudette allegedly lost consciousness shortly before hitting both pedestrians.

No court date has been set for Gaudette to face her charges.

WBZ-TV’s Christina Hager contributed to this report.

Comments (9)
  1. Jean says:

    This teenager should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. She should never be allowed to driver again. The human suffering she caused is inexcusable and was totally preventable.

    1. J fico says:

      “It’s terrifying to know that still today, people are still thinking of doing stupid stuff like that,” Yes, Mr. Ortiz. and this is exactly what people were saying in March of 1990, too.

  2. williamwood says:

    Doris Otriz was involved in the 1990 murder of Officer Tommy Duggan in Lawrence. She was let go by an ultra liberal judge John Ronan. She held the officer down while her boyfriend beat him to death with a baseball bat. Good liuck to her…

    1. Tom Duggan says:


      From: Tom Duggan Jr.,
      (978) 771-4091

      When 45-year-old Doris Milagro-Ortiz was tragically hit by a car in Lowell last Thursday, the news focused on the teen driver who was allegedly “huffing and driving” prior to the crash. Police say the teen driver was sniffing compressed air from a canister shortly before the crash. Press accounts detailed the actions of the teen driver who is being charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, driving under the influence and several other charges.

      On behalf of the Duggan family, however, we would like the public to know that one of the victims in this case, Ms. Doris Mliagro-Ortiz is in fact, one of the two cop killers involved in the brutal beating death of Lawrence Police Officer Tom Duggan in March of 1990.
      According to witness testimony in October of 1990 at Salem Superior Court, Ortiz attacked officer Duggan on a downtown busy street in the middle of the afternoon, scuffling with Officer Duggan before her boyfriend, William Rodriguez exited his vehicle, backed up Officer Duggan who had his hands up in the air as he tried to talk them down, and then beat him in the head with a metal baseball bat while Ortiz held his hands so he could not defend himself.

      Officer Duggan was in a coma at Lawrence General Hospital for three days before he died.

      We find it ironic, and perhaps proof of Karma that Ms. Ortiz now lays in a coma at Saints Memorial hospital having been struck by a car on October 12th, 2011… 21 years exactly to the date, that a jury found her not guilty (on a technicality) of murdering Officer Duggan.

      While we are all praying for the family of Ms. Ortiz and the other victim of this tragic accident, we want the public to know who it is exactly that they are praying for; a woman whose actions lead to the killing of a police officer. A woman who often bragged about her part in holding officer Duggan’s hands while her boyfriend came down with blow after blow with a metal bat to Officer Duggan’s head. A woman who committed crimes after being let go on a technicality, where she boasted about “getting away with killing a cop.”

      We do not celebrate the tragedy that has befallen Ms. Ortiz or her family, and we do not relish in her pain. We merely want people to know who it is when they hear the news that a pedestrian is in a coma and fighting for her life, just as Officer Duggan once did because of her and her boyfriend’s actions.
      In the last 21 years Ms. Ortiz has enjoyed the benefit of being free after her part in Officer Duggan’s death and by all accounts she has lived a full life, while the victim of her actions in 1990 still lays in a cemetery having been deprived of watching his daughters, and his grandchildren grow up.

      Our family has always prayed for justice since that day, October 12, 1990, when Doris Milagro-Ortiz and her boyfriend William Rodriguez danced and sang their way past our family, pointing in our faces and laughing as they were lead to freedom.

      Today we believe more than ever that justice may be slow, but justice usually does prevail. It just doesn’t come in the form we want it to.

      BACKGROUND: http://www.valleypatriot.com/VP030410dad.html

  3. TooBadSoSad says:

    Karma at it’s best! Boo Hoo! Sorry to sound so mean but this woman KILLED a Police Officer in 1990! Don’t feel bad at all!

  4. fellow classmate says:

    Catherine deserves full punishment for her actions. She chose to drive while “huffing” and knew the sever consequences and the side effects of this high. The woman may have killed a police officer but clearly no one is sure of the story. There is another woman that was also hit by Gaudette’s wreckless driving! Gaudette blatantly struck two innocent civilians. Only she is to blame in this situation.

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