Police: Neither driver in Waterford rollover crash had valid license

A dump truck rests on its side on Route 85 after colliding with a stopped car north of Lakes Pond road on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. The truck rolled over, spilling its load of dirt on the roadway. The driver of the truck was uninjured.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
A dump truck rests on its side on Route 85 after colliding with a stopped car north of Lakes Pond road on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. The truck rolled over, spilling its load of dirt on the roadway. The driver of the truck was uninjured. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Waterford — Neither driver in last week’s dump truck rollover crash, which sent state Department of Transportation workers scrambling for their lives, had a valid license at the time of the wreck, according to a police report.

According to the report, Jesse Perkins, a 30-year-old who lives at 13 Archer Court in New London, was driving a Sterling LT9500 dump truck eastbound on Route 85 just before the 11:30 a.m. crash occurred Friday. The truck belongs to Advanced Improvements LLC, a home improvement and construction company that operates out of Mystic.

Lizbeth Aparicio-Vargas, 30, of 22 Archer Court, New London, was traveling eastbound in front of Perkins in a black Chevrolet Prizm.

Both drivers were approaching the area of Lakes Pond Road, where a construction crew was removing trees. Police said signs posted in each direction alerted drivers to the upcoming construction zone.

According to state Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Nursick, Route 85 was down to one lane in the area and DOT workers were flagging to control traffic. Contracted by DOT, Asplundh workers were doing the tree removal.

On scene, DOT employee Michael Staehle told police he had directed eastbound traffic to stop as Aparicio-Vargas approached. At first, he said, she didn’t appear to be slowing down, but then she came to a sudden stop.

Staehle told police Perkins was directly behind Aparicio-Vargas at that point. Without room to stop, Perkins struck the left rear of the Prizm and swerved into the westbound lane before trying to cut back into the eastbound lane. His actions left the dump truck sprawled across Route 85 on its driver’s side, according to the report.

As the truck careened toward Staehle and a coworker, each had to run to the tree line off the roadway to avoid being struck, the report states.

Diagram of Friday's crash, courtesy of Waterford police
Diagram of Friday's crash, courtesy of Waterford police

Perkins wasn’t injured in the crash, but crews took Aparicio-Vargas to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital for treatment of severe neck pain. A passenger in the Prizm did not require medical attention.

Police on Friday cited Aparicio-Vargas with driving without a license, but found Perkins at fault in the wreck.

Police charged Perkins with driving with a suspended license and following too closely. He’s scheduled to be arraigned in New London Superior Court on Dec. 15.

Records show Perkins has two other pending court cases for motor vehicle violations. The first stems from a December 2016 incident in which the state Department of Motor Vehicles cited him for failure to stop at a weigh station. The second is out of Norwich, where police in February charged Perkins with misuse of plates, failure to carry minimum insurance and failure to renew registration. Perkins was due in Norwich Superior Court on Wednesday morning to deal with both of those cases. The outcome of his court appearance wasn't immediately available.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Advanced Improvements owner David Preka said he went to the scene of the crash and believed Perkins received only a warning from police. He noted that if Perkins had fully rear-ended the car, rather than clipping its rear left side, its two occupants might not have survived.

Preka, citing privacy issues, wouldn’t elaborate on what discipline Perkins may face, but said he would be looking further into the incident.

“We employ over 50 people,” he said. “I believe in legit ways to run a business. I don’t like anybody to be hurt.”

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Advanced Improvements has 11 vehicles and employs five drivers. From Nov. 17, 2015, to Nov. 17, 2017 — the latest data available — the company received no unsafe driving violations.

In Nursick’s opinion, the crash is just the latest example of driver error leaving DOT workers and contractors at risk.

“We see routine disregard for the rules of the road on a day-to-day basis,” Nursick said. “When you mix that with a work zone, horrible things can happen.”

He brought up a monument outside the DOT headquarters that lists the names of dozens of DOT and contract workers who have died in Connecticut work zone crashes.

“We constantly remind the public of the hazards our workers face on any given day,” Nursick said, adding that that goes for law enforcement and other first responders, too.

“All we’re asking the public to do is take that into consideration and use extreme caution in work zones,” he said.

l.boyle@theday.com

Emergency responders with the Cohanzie Fire Department wheel a woman to a waiting ambulance past the rolled-over dump truck that struck her car on Route 85 north of Lakes Pond Road on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. The truck rolled over, spilling its load of dirt on the roadway. The driver of the truck was uninjured. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Emergency responders with the Cohanzie Fire Department wheel a woman to a waiting ambulance past the rolled-over dump truck that struck her car on Route 85 north of Lakes Pond Road on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. The truck rolled over, spilling its load of dirt on the roadway. The driver of the truck was uninjured. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Cohanzie fire department Chief Todd Branche makes a call on his radio from the scene of an accident involving a dump truck and car on Route 85 north to Lakes Pond Road on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. The truck rolled over, spilling its load of dirt on the roadway. The driver of the truck was uninjured.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Cohanzie fire department Chief Todd Branche makes a call on his radio from the scene of an accident involving a dump truck and car on Route 85 north to Lakes Pond Road on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. The truck rolled over, spilling its load of dirt on the roadway. The driver of the truck was uninjured. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

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