Woman killed in crash involving HPD cruiser not 'properly restrained'

Driver who hit HPD cruiser admitted she had been drinking

HOUSTON - A woman transported by Houston police early Wednesday morning has died after a driver smashed into a HPD squad car.

Police said a female officer was transporting a 21-year-old woman to the Sobriety Center for public intoxication from an earlier incident at Hobby Airport.

Nicolai was spotted at Hobby Airport by police who say she appeared to be intoxicated.

"She was walking around obviously a danger to herself and to others. And that's why they made the decision to arrest her for public intoxication,"said Sgt. Ignacio Izaguire.

Around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, they were at the intersection of Charters and Texas when the driver of a red Chevy Cobalt ran a red light and T-boned the cruiser.

Nicolai was ejected from the patrol car and taken to Ben Taub General Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

HPD investigators say she was not wearing a seat belt as required by HPD rules.

"Our policy is to have them seat belted in," said Sgt. Ignacio Izagurie with the Houston Police Department. "That is currently under investigation whether that policy was followed."

In a news release, Houston police said their "preliminary investigation indicates the female prisoner was not properly restrained in a seatbelt in the backseat of the patrol vehicle."

Police said the driver of the Cobalt admitted to drinking and driving.

"She admitted to drinking some alcoholic beverages," said Sgt. Izaguire. "She stated to officers here that she shouldn't have been driving."

Nicolai's father told Local 2 that he and his wife saw video of the accident on the morning news and then received a phone call 10 minutes later informing them that their daughter was dead.

Frank Nicolai said he doesn't know why his daughter was at the airport so late at night and that police investigators weren't able to provide any details.

Caroline Nicolai was the youngest of four children raised in northern California. Her father says she moved to the Houston area with family five years ago. She was living in Alvin at the time of her death. Frank Nicolai said the family won't comment about the crash or investigation.

The driver and her rear seat passenger were also transported to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries. The name of the driver was not immediately released.

The officer suffered minor injuries and was transported to Memorial Hermann Hospital. Local 2's Phil Archer reports the officer involved is Regina Gonzales who has been with HPD since 1994.

The district attorney's office and the HPD Vehicular Crimes and Internal Affairs Divisions are investigating the accident.

KPRC's Phil Archer will have more on this developing story tonight on Local 2 News at 5 and 6.

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