(This story was first published in the June 27, 2013 edition of the Vermont Standard.)
By Eric Francis
WEST WOODSTOCK – With the results now back from the state police’s Crash Reconstruction Team into a horrific collision between a box truck and a car that killed 84-year-old Norma Sawyer of Bridgewater on the morning of May 16, Woodstock Police have decided to charge the truck driver for his alleged role in causing the fatal accident. Timothy Farewell, 46, of Enfield, N.H. has been issued a citation to appear at the Windsor District Courthouse in White River Junction on July 30 to answer to the charge of negligent operation.
Witnesses said that a heavy fog condition persisted that morning on the section of Route 4 just a short distance to the west of the Lincoln Covered Bridge where the head-on crash took place, sending the box truck up and over the driver ’s side of Sawyer’s car and then down the embankment right to the edge of the Ottauquechee River.
Farewell was not hurt but Sawyer was killed instantly and her passenger, Laura Robinson, 75, was briefly hospitalized as a result of the crash.
Woodstock Police Officer Mark Donka, who headed up the investigation, said that details of the crash reports are not being released prior to Farewell’s court appearance except for the obvious point that “he went into the wrong lane” while, like any driver, having a duty to operate safely on the highway regardless of the weather conditions.
A myriad of safety concerns along the eastern section of Route 4 from Bridgewater clear to the New Hampshire border have been raised following four fatal crashes this year that have claimed five lives and on Wednesday morning the Vermont Agency of Transportation announced they have set up a website to help the public monitor progress this year as they attempt a series of improvements.
The site is at http://highwaysafety.vermont.gov/Rt4.htm VTrans has a paving project along Route 4 that will commence in mid-July that will see the installation of “rumble strips” down the double yellow lines in an effort to curtail the kind of “cross over incidents” which have been the ultimate issue in each of the fatal accidents so far this year.
In the meantime, starting next week, a series of illuminated message boards will begin appearing along the length of Route 4 flashing a series of safety topic that will be coordinated and will change each week. The boards are intended to highlight issues ranging for driver distractions like cell phones, the need to wear seat belts, slow down and the like.
As a “stop gap measure,” before the larger paving project gets underway, crews will also begin painting temporary pavement markings on the highway as soon as the current bout of rainy weather stops long enough to permit it.
There was another crash on Route 4 in Quechee last Thursday afternoon that heavily damaged both vehicles involved and sent one man to the hospital with chest injuries.
Hartford Police said that Diane McDonald, 78, was headed westbound at a slow rate of speed on began turning onto Chester Arthur Road, about a mile west of Waterman Hill, when she was struck by an eastbound car driven by Jerry Pendleton, 64, of Hartford. Pendleton ended up being taken to the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center where he was treated and released. Hartford Deputy Police Chief Brad Vail said that McDonald was at fault for having turned left in front on the oncoming vehicle.