SPOFFORD, N.H. -- An accident along Route 9 sent two women with non-life-threatening injuries to the hospital Tuesday at just past 8 a.m.
According to Gordon Rudolph, chief of the Spofford Volunteer Fire Department, the driver of a westbound vehicle was stopped waiting to turn left into the Big Deal convenience store and gas station when it was struck from behind by another vehicle traveling west. The collision forced the stopped vehicle into the eastbound lane, where it struck another vehicle along the driver's side, ripping off the door and the wheel. The two occupants of the eastbound vehicle were uninjured in the crash, said Rudolph.
"There was debris everywhere," he said. To complicate matters, the gas tank of the vehicle that was rearended was ruptured and when he arrived on scene at 8:15 a.m., was spilling fuel out onto the roadway.
"I had the aid of two tractor trailer drivers who helped me close the road," said Rudolph, but before then, people were driving through the gas or through the parking lot of Big Deal to get to where they were going.
According to the Chesterfield Police Department, Korrine McManus, 34, of West Chesterfield, was traveling west when she rearended the stopped vehicle, which was being operated by Gwen Mousin, 50, of Spofford. Mousin's vehicle was pushed into the eastbound lane, where it hit the side of a vehicle being driven by Sarah Harris, 26, of Spofford.
Lester Fairbanks, chief of the Chesterfield Police Department, said that though the investigation is in its preliminary stages, it appears McManus was distracted, causing the accident. Whether the driver was distracted by a phone or something else in the vehicle is not yet known, he said, and the investigation continues.
"There are three things I would advise any driver: Slow down, so when cars do bump into each other there is less kinetic energy; keep a safe distance so you can react appropriately; and pay attention," said Fairbanks.
That stretch of Route 9 is not as dangerous as the intersection of Route 9 and Route 63, which is being studied by a committee to determine whether improvements can be made, said Fairbanks.
"The intersection of Route 9 and Route 63 generally wears the crown for being the most dangerous, but in the past year, Big Deal is not too far behind."
Most of the accidents along that stretch of road have been fender benders, but in January of 2012, a young driver from Charlestown, who was a 2007 graduate of Brattleboro, Vt., Union High School, was traveling west from Keene when he drifted into a tractor trailer heading east. The driver of the car, Benjamin Moseley, 22, was killed. The driver of the truck received minor injuries.
"In truth, there is no safe part of Route 9," said Fairbanks, noting that people traveling east along Route 9 often have just come off of Interstate 91, where the speed limit is 65 mph, and Route 9 is maintained by the state in an almost-highway-like condition, which makes excessive speeds an ongoing problem on the road.
"There is an imaginary line separating the two lanes of traffic, which are traveling at 75 feet per second and there is no barrier between each other. It doesn't take a lot of distraction to end a life."
Normally, the speed limit along a road such as Route 9 is 55 mph, but because of the number of access points along the road, the state dropped the speed limit to 50 mph.
"In a perfect world, there would be an exclusive left turn lane into Big Deal, but if you are paying attention, there is a wide enough breakdown lane to get by," said Fairbanks.
According to the Chesterfield Police Department, Mousin received facial injuries and McManus sustained injuries to her back and abdomen.
Rudolph received the dispatch call at 8:07 a.m. and was assisted by members of the Chesterfield Fire Department, the Keene Fire Department, the Chesterfield Police Department and the New Hampshire State Police. Diluzio Ambulance also assisted on scene.
Route 9 was closed for approximately 90 minutes to allow for cleanup of the fuel spill.
"It's unfortunate," said Rudolph. "That wasn't the first accident at that location and I am sure it won't be the last. People need to slow down and pay attention."
The Spofford Fire Department also received assistance from an employee of Big Deal, who was assisting one of the drivers when Rudolph arrived. Another employee brought out a case of water for emergency responders, he said.
Bob Audette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.