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Alleged drunken driver charged with felonies in fiery Highway 75 crash

Brianna Eileen Pallotta

MOORHEAD - An arrest warrant has been issued for a Minot, N.D., woman who faces felony charges for allegedly causing a fiery crash on Highway 75 north of Moorhead last week that injured an elderly couple and herself.

According to a complaint filed with the charges, the driver was taking shots of schnapps before the high-speed crash and doesn't recall what happened.

Brianna Eileen Pallotta, 25, was charged Wednesday in Clay County District Court with two felony counts of DWI and one felony count and one misdemeanor count of criminal vehicular operation.

The Minnesota State Patrol has said Pallotta was driving southbound on Highway 75 at about 9:30 p.m. Oct. 9 when she tried to pass another vehicle and struck an oncoming car head-on.

The driver of the other car, Nolan Underlee, 83, and his wife, Doris Underlee, 79, of Hendrum, were taken to Sanford Medical Center in critical condition.

Doris Underlee's condition was later upgraded to satisfactory, and she is no longer a patient at the hospital.

Nolan Underlee suffered broken ribs, a punctured lung, a broken leg and a severe cut to his hand, the complaint states. The hospital had no update to release on his condition, a Sanford spokeswoman said.

Pallotta, who was pulled from her burning car by a Clay County deputy and two residents who live along Highway 75, also was hospitalized at Sanford with non-life-threatening injuries. She is no longer at the hospital.

A blood sample was taken from Pallotta, and "preliminary information indicates that the results of that blood test will be above 0.08" percent, the complaint states.

At the hospital, Pallotta acknowledged to a state trooper that she didn't have a driver's license and had been drinking, the complaint states. She allegedly said that she "had a lot going on" and was stressed and decided to drink, the complaint states.

Pallotta allegedly said she was drinking shots of banana-flavored schnapps and only remembered leaving the apartment, the complaint states. She stated she didn't remember the crash because she was knocked unconscious during the crash, it states.

The car's owner said Pallotta told him that his wife had given her permission to use the car, but he later learned that wasn't true, the complaint states.

Pallotta has four prior drunken driving convictions, two from 2008 and two from 2011.

The driver of the vehicle that Pallotta attempted to pass told authorities she must have been going between 85 and 90 mph and nearly rear-ended his vehicle before moving into the northbound lane to pass him, the complaint states.

The felony DWI charges carry a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and a $14,000 fine, while the felony criminal vehicular operation charge is punishable by five years and a $10,000 fine.