Article originally appeared in PennLive.com on Friday, July 2012 via the Associated Press. Link to the article may be found here.
"ANTWERP, N.Y. -- Police are probing the cause of a crash in a
northern New York roadwork zone that killed six people on Thursday. Meanwhile, police said the tractor-trailer driver who started the
fiery, chain-reaction crash is James A. Mills Jr., 45, of Myerstown,
Lebanon County, Pa. A state police accident reconstruction team is using a computer
simulation program and interviewing witnesses to determine the sequence
of events in the pile-up, whose victims included four family members.
Police said two other tractor-trailers were struck in the crash in Antwerp, N.Y., but were only slightly damaged.
Mills was taken to a hospital for toxicology tests and released. The
county district attorney’s office is investigating whether any charges
are warranted, said Trooper Jack Keller.
State police identified the driver of the SUV that exploded in flames
as Laurie Dana, 42, an elementary school speech therapist from
Lawrence, a rural town about 60 miles northeast of the crash site and 15
miles south of the Canadian border. Also in the vehicle were her two
daughters, Caitlyn, 14, and Lauryn, 11, and her mother-in-law, Janet
Dana, 69. The fifth victim was Shannon Planty, 14, a friend of Caitlyn.
The driver of the other SUV was identified as Maryann Gregory, 59, of Dickinson Center in Franklin County.
The crash happened near Fort Drum, 85 miles northeast of Syracuse.
The site is on a straight, flat section of the two-lane road, the main
east-west highway across four rural northern counties along the Canadian
border. There were plenty of signs warning motorists that crews were
working on the road, Keller said.
Michael Countryman told the Watertown Daily Times that he ran outside
after hearing the loud crash and saw a vehicle engulfed in flames. “On
the other side of a tractor-trailer I saw a woman upside-down in her
car; I reached in and felt a pulse — barely,” he told the paper.
The vehicle’s gas tank also was leaking, he said. Countryman said
he broke out a side window of Gregory’s Subaru with a hatchet. He said
he and an emergency medical technician talked to the woman, but she
“He handed me scissors to cut the shoulder strap, then we picked her up and put her on a board,” Countryman said.
Signage on the tractor-trailer indicates it is owned by MBM
Customized Foodservice Distribution based in Rocky Mount, N.C. Keller
said the truck was hauling a full load of yogurt from a plant in
neighboring Franklin County. The vehicle was impounded for examination
by police investigators.
Laurie Dana and her mother-in-law lived on the same stretch of Route
11 and frequently did things together, said Joyce Sheppard, who has
lived two houses away from Laurie Dana for four years. The Dana family
has a dairy operation and Sheppard’s retired husband sometimes helps
“A very nice family,” she said Thursday evening. “They were very
friendly with us. She gave us a Christmas basket last year, which was
nice.” Janet Dana’s husband Don stopped by the Sheppard house to break the
news to their neighbors. “I’m sorry,” Sheppard said. “We’re
Sheppard saw Laurie Dana drive by just ahead of her Thursday morning,
on her way to pick up Janet Dana. “I feel terrible because I saw them
and didn’t wave or anything,” she said. “They were just going on their
Sheppard said Caitlyn and Lauryn were “beautiful little girls.”
She expects the community will rally around the family. “We’re just
trusting in the Lord,” she said. “That’s all we can do for now.”
Truck accidents are an increasingly common occurrence as truckers often work long hours and may, as a result, become prone to distracted driving. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident with a truck driver, it may be time to seek legal counsel. Attorney Doug Stoehr is a personal injury lawyer serving western and central Pennsylvania. For more information on his firm, please visit http://www.stoehrlaw.com.