Norwich victim critical following police chase, crash

Police say help from a good Samaritan led to the successful rescue of an unconscious Norwich man who was trapped in the submerged cab of his truck following a crash Tuesday in Montville.

Jeffrey Weed, 49, was driving a utility truck owned by Osterman Propane headed west on Route 85 at about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday when his truck was rammed by a stolen pickup truck driven by a man trying to outrun police, according to police reports. Weed's car had flipped on its roof and rolled into a pond at the intersection of Routes 161 and 85.

He was unconscious with his seat belt on and his head fully submerged when police jumped into the waist deep, murky pond water. East Lyme Resident Trooper Sgt. Wilfred Blanchette, East Lyme Officer Lindsey Cutillo and Trooper Timothy Bentley, along with an unidentified man, all played a role in the ensuing rescue.

Blanchette said when he arrived, Bentley was in the water working to open the door of the truck. After the seat belt was cut away, Blanchette said his fellow officers and the unknown individual wrestled to pull Weed from the truck, get his head above water and move him to shore.

"The unknown civilian — we'd really like to get his name — helped," Blanchette said. "I never got a chance to thank him. It has reinforced my faith in humanity that people still care."

Cutillo called it a group effort, saying, "We did whatever we could to get him out."

Weed was flown by Life Star helicopter to Hartford Hospital, where his stepdaughter, Carmen Devost of Baltic, said he underwent emergency surgery overnight. He remained hospitalized Wednesday and was listed in critical condition but was on the road to recovery, Devost said.

"He's in good condition ... but has some pretty bad breaks, bumps and bruises," Devost said. "We are very grateful, thankful and blessed they were there to help him."

Paul F. Deckelman, 31, the man police said caused the crash, was arraigned in Norwich Superior Court Wednesday on numerous charges that included first-degree reckless endangerment, third-degree assault, reckless driving, first-degree larceny and interfering with an officer.

Court records show Deckelman is on probation following a conviction earlier this year for possession of narcotics.

Deckelman was driving a Chevrolet Silverado reported stolen from a gas station on Route 1 in Old Saybrook, police said. First spotted on Interstate 95, Old Lyme and state police had chased him to Route 161.

The stolen truck, police said, crashed into a metal guard rail, at which point Deckelman was taken into custody.

Deckelman remained held Wednesday in lieu of a $100,000 bond with a medical watch and detoxification ordered by the judge.

g.smith@theday.com

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