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NH man dies in dump truck crash into Colrain building

  • A dump truck crashed into the vacant house at the bottom of the Greenfield Road in the center of Colrain Tuesday morning. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • A dump truck crashed into the vacant house at the bottom of the Greenfield Road in the center of Colrain Tuesday morning. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • A dump truck crashed into the vacant house at the bottom of the Greenfield Road in the center of Colrain Tuesday morning. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The State Medical Examiner was on hand to transport the driver who was killed when the dump truck he was driving hit the vacant house at the base of Greenfield Road in Colrain Center Tuesday morning. August 15, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • A dump truck was removed from the vacant house at the base of Greenfield Road in Colrain Center. August 15, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The dump truck was pulled out of the vacant house it struck at the base of Greenfield Road in Colrain Center Tuesday morning. August 15, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The dump truck was pulled out of the vacant house it struck at the base of Greenfield Road in Colrain Center Tuesday morning. August 15, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz



Recorder Staff
Tuesday, August 15, 2017

COLRAIN — The driver of a truck died after crashing head-on into a vacant building in the town center Tuesday morning, on an overcast and wet day.

The driver has been identified as Robert Leustek, 46, of Winchester, N.H., according to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office.

The 10-wheeler truck was headed down the mountain into town around 8:08 a.m. when it likely lost its brakes, Colrain Fire Chief Nicholas Anzuoni said.

Following inspection by the town, the building was condemned and will likely be demolished, the chief said. The crash caused significant damage to the side of the baby-blue property that had been recently purchased.

The chief expected traffic to be back to normal by the late afternoon Tuesday.

It wasn’t until around 10:30 a.m. that the truck was able to be removed from the building. Firefighters had prepared for a potential collapse of the building that Anzuoni said had its foundation shifted from the impact of the crash.

It took two cranes to tow it out.

“I’m frankly amazed it didn’t move at all when we pulled the truck out,” Anzuoni said. “Pleasantly surprised that there was no further collapse.”

Within the first hour of the crash in the town center, Colrain, Greenfield, Wilmington, Vt., and Halifax, Vt., were among the first responders were at the scene. An ambulance and EMS responders were also present.

Around noon, the truck had yet to be towed away on a flatbed. Firefighters climbed to the top of the truck and shoveled the pile of debris and the shifted load below it to the back end and out of the truck.

Tuesday morning, state police and special teams, including a medical examiner, documented the scene.

The general area where the crash happened has been known as the “truck stop” by those in town. In July, a 10-wheel dump truck crashed in the plot of land across from the town common and adjacent to where Tuesday’s crash occurred. After that, the town spoke about ways to increase the safety of the area.

The chief recommends for people to avoid the Greenfield Road down into the village altogether. Instead for people coming from Route 2, he suggests going into Shelburne Falls and picking up Route 112.

But, Anzuoni said, the downhill stretch of Greenfield Road is safe to drive. He pointed to the two construction projects going on at the bottom of the hill in town, where trucks go to daily.

“We have people drive this every day with no problem,” Anzuoni said.

The issue typically is with drivers not familiar with the road, he said.

“Truck drivers really have to obey the laws and have to use caution down the mountain,” Anzuoni said. “You have to respect the mountain.”

He said it could be beneficial to add to the pre-existing warnings, where yellow signs alert drivers of the steepness anywhere between a 5 and 11 percent grade. Drivers are alerted to slow down from 40 to 30 to 20 mph and lower their gear, if possible. One idea floated around were blinking signs to further alert truck drivers.

“Sure they’ll be looking at that even harder in the future,” he said about the town’s Selectboard.

A utility line was also taken down, but no residents lost power, the chief said. The line was restored within the first two hours of the crash.

Northwestern District Attorney’s office spokeswoman Mary Carey said Colrain Police, Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, MSP Crime Scene Services and MSP Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section are investigating.

On town’s radar

Earlier that morning, Town Coordinator Kevin Fox was at the scene of the crash — a scene where there have been at least three to four incidents of out-of-control trucks in the last five years, he said.

“One of them took out that fire hydrant,” he said, pointing to a fire hydrant near the town’s war memorial. “This, by far, has been the worst one,” said Fox. “The state doesn’t think this is a dangerous intersection,” he added.

The dangers of the steep Greenfield Road slope that meets with Route 112 and Jacksonville Road near the bottom of the hill was discussed briefly at Monday night’s Selectboard meeting, just 12 hours before the crash.

A dumptruck roll-over on July 7 had prompted discussion over whether it was possible to build a truck ramp for emergency use. Selectwoman Eileen Sauvageau mentioned a small gravel road off Greenfield Road and asked if a truck ramp could be built there. But someone else told her that was a driveway and the only access to the road from a resident’s home.

The 3 Main Road building that was hit by the truck, also known as “the Blue Block,” was ordered demolished Tuesday morning by Building Inspector Shawn Kimberly, who said the collision resulted in too much structural damage to the building.

The building had been condemned in the early 1990s. Although special town meeting voters in 2015 agreed to buy and demolish the vacant Blue Block building, Denis F. Bordeaux purchased the building before the town did. He is still listed as the owner, according to the Franklin County Registry of Deeds.

Reporter Diane Broncaccio contributed to this story.