Izaskun E. Larraneta
A Groton man who allegedly was intoxicated when he caused a series of car crashes Friday night that killed a local firefighter and injured three others on Interstate 395 was arraigned today in Norwich Superior Court.
Willis Goodale, 50, of Groton, was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and with second-degree assault with a motor vehicle. Police said they expect to add more charges.
The crash killed 33-year-old Norwich firefighter Benjamin De Mond. His children, Cole De Mond, 4, and Alex De Mond, 6, were also in the car and sustained serious injuries in the crash. They are at the Connecticut Children's Medical Center, where the younger child's condition was upgraded Monday to stable. His older brother remains in critical condition.
The court set bond of $750,000 and ordered that Goodale be placed on suicide watch and undergo a medical and psychiatric evaluation.
His record includes only one prior arrest, in 1986, for possession of narcotics.
De Mond, a native of Washington state, was new to Connecticut when he joined the Norwich Fire Department on March 2, 2006. His family was not in court today but some of his friedns through the fire department were.
"We are a very close-knit community," said Lanie Estes of Norwich, "and I felt it was important to be here and show support to the family, who cannot be here because they are at the hospital."
Police said the accident occurred shortly after 9 p.m. Friday when Goodale allegedly attempted to cut across I-395 South between exits 79 and 79A via the emergency turnaround after leaving the Mobil service station near the Troop E barracks.
De Mond was driving south on I-395 when he lost control of his Nissan Maxima as he tried unsuccessfully to avoid Goodale's Jeep Cherokee. After the collision, De Mond's car ran through the turnaround and into oncoming traffic, troopers said, hitting Montville resident Andrew Crouch's car head on and causing it to roll over.
De Mond's car then spun into the right lane, where it hit a vehicle driven by Albert Fisher, 58, of Lisbon.
Crouch, 59, was also seriously injured as his Ford Explorer rolled over as a result of the collisions. Crouch was listed in good condition Saturday night at The William W. Backus Hospital. His condition was not immediately available Monday morning.
Fisher was not injured, state police said.
The accident remains under investigation.
Goodale's case was continued to April 18.