Deadly crash likely caused by distracted driver

KEENE, N.H. - A vehicle crash that killed two Hinsdale residents on May 3 was apparently caused by a driver distracted by his mobile phone.

According to incident reports filed by members of the Keene Police Department, moments before a vehicle being driven by Douglas Farr, Jr., 32, collided with a tanker truck being driven by Jeffrey J. Cloran, 54, of Becket, Mass., Farr had received an incoming call on his mobile phone.

Farr and his passenger, Erin Breault, 35, died of multiple blunt force injuries to the head, torso and legs, and likely died instantly, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New Hampshire. Cloran received minor injuries.

According to Officer William Sargent, neither Farr nor Breault were wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash.

Sgt. Jason Short and Sargent reviewed the mobile phones of both Farr and Breault. The last call in Farr's phone's log was for an ignored phone call. When Short contacted the person who made the call, he was told the person had tried to contact Farr via phone call and text message that morning, but all had been unreturned.

According to police records, the first 911 call reporting the crash was received at 10:26:49.

"The time of the 911 calls in conjunction with the ignored call on Farr's phone (10:25) suggest it is more likely Farr was distracted by his mobile device, which led to him crossing the line and into the path of the oncoming tractor trailer unit," wrote Short. "It is likely this distraction contributed greatly to the collision."

Initial reports by the driver of the tanker truck and witnesses to the crash indicated Farr deliberately swerved into the path of the tractor trailer.

Farr was traveling south in the area of Routes 9/10/12 between the on ramp from West Street and the cloverleaf for the intersection of Route 9/10 and Route 12 North when he appeared to swerve in "a very deliberate, aggressive move," Cloran told police.

"(Cloran) explained it was such a drastic change of direction, that it appeared the vehicle had tried to correct itself and turn back into its own lane, and when they corrected back, they collided with his truck," wrote Det. Donald Lundin in his report. "(Cloran) commented something to the effect of, 'It's like they wanted to commit suicide.'"

Cloran told Lundin "It appeared the vehicle had tried to correct itself and turn back into its own lane, and when they corrected back, they collided with his truck. (Cloran) said the other vehicle would have been better off continuing to swerve into the oncoming traffic lane because they would have missed him completely."

Witnesses to the crash told police similar accounts.

Robert J. Weller told Lundin it looked as if the Hyundai Farr was driving moved into oncoming traffic with "a deliberate jerk."

"It's like he wanted to line himself up with the front of that truck," stated Weller, who helped Cloran escape from his burning truck by cutting his seatbelt.

Rob Lotito, told Det. Robert Collinsworth he was driving 25 to 30 feet behind Cloran's gasoline truck at the time of the crash.

"I swear the guy driving the small dark sedan drove directly into the truck like it was on purpose," Lotito told police. He also told police that there was nothing noteworthy about Cloran's operation of his truck prior to the accident.

Another witness told police that the truck's operation appeared to be "normal." Cloran told police he was doing between 40 and 45 mph at the time of the crash.

One witness told police that Farr's Hyundai appeared to be moving at a "high rate of speed" prior to the impact.

Short noted that Farr's ability to regain control of his vehicle "could also have been hampered by his lack of movement he reportedly suffered in his left arm."

According to Short, Farr's mother "did suggest he had difficulty with movement in his left arm due to (being) shot, twice."

She also told police she believed there was no way her son could have committed suicide by driving his car into the oncoming tanker truck.

"She stated he had too (many) positive things going on, to include a large disability check," wrote Short.

On April 14, 2012, Farr and Mark T. McAuley, 39, of Hinsdale, were involved in a shooting incident that left Farr injured and McAuley dead.

More than a year later, the New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General's Office has still not released its final investigation report about what happened that day in an area of Chesterfield known locally as "The Spiderweb," a secluded network of old logging trails.

In a denial of a Right to Know Request filed by the Reformer shortly after Farr was killed, Assistant Attorney General Peter Hinckley wrote his office objected to the request "because disclosure at this point could reasonably be expected to interfere with an ongoing investigation, but also the disclosure at this point of the investigation reasonably may be expected to disclose the identity of confidential sources ... "

Hinckley also noted that release of the documents could endanger "the safety of potential witnesses."

Documents will be released to the Reformer "once the active investigations have been concluded," wrote Hinckley, though he gave no indication when that might be.

Though the cab of Cloran's tanker truck was destroyed by flames, the tanker itself, which contained approximately 5,000 gallons of fuel, did not ignite in the blaze. It took the Keene Fire Department about one hour to extinguish the flames, which at times reached 100 feet into the air.

Bob Audette can be reached at, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.


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