Tree falls on car traveling on Rt. 5


WESTMINSTER -- A Swanzey, N.H., man avoided serious injury Wednesday after a tree fell on the vehicle he was driving south on Route 5.

Vermont State Police say Charles Jack, 51, was near Durand Auto at 7:08 p.m. when the 2012 Subaru Legacy he was operating was smashed by the tree, which caused damage to the rear and front ends of the vehicle, deployed the airbags and shattered some of the car's windows.

According to a report from Trooper Jake Bloom, a vehicle belonging to Durand Auto also sustained minor damage from the falling tree and both vehicles were moved to Durand Auto for repairs. The report also states Jack was wearing a seatbelt and the road conditions were wet due to rain. Westminster Fire and Rescue responded to the scene and cleared the roadway, but had no further involvement.

A message left at Durand Auto was not returned by presstime Thursday.

Capt. Ray Keefe, commander of Vermont State Police Troop D, told the Reformer incidents like the one that occurred Wednesday night do not happen frequently.

"As much as this is a rural area, we do not see this very much. Environmental accidents ... are very rare," he said Thursday afternoon. "We do see it occasionally, but it's more likely when the car is parked."

Keefe, who has been on the job 26 years, said it is much more common for accidents to happen due to operator error or an animal -- as big as a moose or as small as a squirrel -- in the roadway. He told the Reformer it is important for all drivers to stay calm behind the wheel.

"Sometimes people will swerve and cause more damage," he said. "People always have to be ready for what might happen in front of them, and not overreacting is the key."

Keefe said speeding often increases the possibility of an accident -- because a driver has less time to react -- but that was not a factor in Wednesday's incident.

Though environmental accidents are uncommon, Keefe mentioned the rockslide that reduced Interstate 91 South to one lane of traffic on Wednesday.

Marc Pickering, a technician for the Vermont Department of Transportation's District 2, told the Reformer his agency was alerted to the rockslide by the VSP and responded. He said it took less than an hour to move the 60 yards of fallen material off the road, where it now sits in a pile waiting to be permanently removed. No one was hurt in the rockslide, Pickering said.

He said the spot, the southbound lane's 37.6 mile-marker in Rockingham, has a chronic rockslide problem that is constantly monitored. He said the nearby rock material is slate-like and breaks off when water gets into its cracks, freezes and then thaws and expands.

Domenic Poli can be reached at, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.


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