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Woman faces charges in fatal Bradenton wreck

A St. Petersburg woman was charged with driving drunk in a head-on collision that killed a 17-year-old girl early Saturday morning in eastern Manatee County.

Linda Cooper, 46, of 1650 57th Ave. N was charged with driving under the influence, DUI/manslaughter and DUI with property damage. She was booked into the Manatee County Jail and will have her first appearance before a judge today, when bail will be set.

Crystal Gutjahr, who lives in the 3300 block of Bear Bay Road in eastern Manatee County, was pronounced dead at the scene on State Road 64. Her 15-year-old sister, Shannon, who was in the car with her, suffered minor injuries.

The girls' father arrived at the scene shortly after the crash and drove Shannon to Manatee Memorial Hospital, state troopers said. She was treated and released Saturday night.

The teens were traveling west on SR 64 about 6:20 a.m. Crystal Gutjahr planned to drop off her sister at her mother's home before going to her job at Michael the Cleaner on Bee Ridge Road in Sarasota, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper D.D. Carroll said.

Cooper was traveling east on SR 64, crossed the center line and collided with Crystal's 1997 Dodge. Miss Gutjahr tried to swerve when she saw the van veer left, but it was too late, Carroll said.

The crash destroyed Crystal Gutjahr's car but did little damage to Cooper's van. The road was littered with beer cans that troopers said came from the van. Troopers collected about three 12 packs of beer, including five empty cans.

Authorities took a blood sample from Cooper that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in Tampa will analyze, Carroll said.

It was dark and foggy along the roadway near Myakka City at that time, but troopers said the weather conditions did not cause the crash.

Cooper told troopers she was returning to St. Petersburg after spending time at the Coachman R.V. Park in Venice. It is unclear why she was driving east on SR 64.

_ Compiled from Times wires.