Putney man dies in crash

Posted

ROCKINGHAM -- A Putney man died Monday morning after his vehicle crashed into a tractor trailer on Route 5 in Rockingham around 6 a.m.

Dillon Loomis, 21, was driving his 1996 Jeep Cherokee at speeds in excess of 80 mph when he hit the 2010 Freightliner tractor trailer, police said.

The accident took place near the Exit 6 off-ramp of Interstate 91.

After spending nearly an hour trapped under the truck before he was extricated, Loomis was transported by helicopter to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., where he was later pronounced dead.

According to police, the tractor trailer driver, Craig Hawkins, 57, of Westminster, had left the interstate and stopped at the end of the off-ramp. As he made a left-hand turn onto Route 5, he was struck by Loomis who was traveling south.

Loomis' vehicle went so far under the truck that its front end protruded out from the other side, said Vermont State Trooper Paul Dean.

The rescue efforts required help from several outside agencies; L and B Trucking played a vital role, Dean said. The Rockingham Fire Department, Springfield Fire Department, Westminster Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department and Golden Cross Ambulance also assisted in the extrication.

"We had to use a heavy-duty wrecker to lift up the trailer, and then we were able to put support under the trailer and use the jaws of life to extricate the operator out of the vehicle," Dean said.

"Even after," he added, "we had to get under there with a torch. To get the jeep out from under the truck, we had to cut the truck's gas tank out."

Hawkins was not injured, and after undergoing inspection by the Department of Motor Vehicles, he was found not to be in violation of any commercial motor vehicle laws, said Dean.

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The weather was clear at the time of the accident and the roadway was dry.

Dean said that even though it was still dark and that section of Route 5 is not well lit, speed was the biggest contributing factor to the accident. Police said that drugs and alcohol were not a contributing factor.

"There were just under 300 feet of skid marks, and what that did was enable us to do an accident reconstruction and figure out that the minimum speed at the beginning skid was approximately 81 miles per hour," Dean said, adding that the speed limit for that stretch of road is 40 mph.

He further explained that the estimate does not include how fast the Jeep was still traveling on impact. For example, if the vehicle was traveling 10 mph on impact, that can be added to the estimate for a total of 90 mph before the brakes were applied, Dean said.

Though Loomis hit his brakes, he was still going fast enough to wedge his vehicle completely under the tractor trailer.

"That's a lot of energy that the Jeep still had," Dean said.

In addition, the state trooper said, a woman who was stopped at a nearby Shell Gas Station said she saw Loomis' vehicle go by at a very high rate of speed shortly before the crash.

With the road completely closed for more than six hours, traffic control was an issue, said Dean. He pointed out that there is no easy way to bypass that section of Route 5.

"Impatient people liked to try to drive around (the accident site), so we had to deal with that on top of everything else," he said.

Both lanes were open to traffic by 6 p.m.

Jaime Cone can be reached at jcone@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.


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