Two killed in Old Lyme crash, I-95 closed for hours

Scene of a motor vehicle accident on I-95 north bound between exits 71 and 70 in Old Lyme Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Scene of a motor vehicle accident on I-95 north bound between exits 71 and 70 in Old Lyme Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Old Lyme — Police have confirmed two people were killed in a multi-vehicle crash on Interstate 95 north between exits 70 and 71 Wednesday afternoon, creating hours of traffic delays on and off the highway, as police cleared the latest wreckage in what has historically been a treacherous section of the interstate.

The highway remained closed until almost 9:30 p.m., although traffic by nightfall eased on many of the local roads that had taken overflow from the interstate.

Police released few details of the accident, which was first reported just before 2 p.m., and said only that one of the vehicles was a truck pulling an excavator on a trailer and another was a car, which caught on fire. Names of the victims were not immediately available.

Northbound traffic was being diverted all Wednesday afternoon off Exit 70, as all northbound lanes of I-95 were closed between exits 70 and 71. State troopers assisted drivers stuck on the highway to turn around and safely exit the highway, according to an email by state police spokeswoman Kelly Grant. Traffic was backed up south of the Baldwin Bridge and up state Route 9 all afternoon, and it continued to clog up the bridge into Wednesday night.

The section of I-95 that runs through southeastern Connecticut has historically been a common site of serious crashes, as reported by The Day in 2015. From 1995 to 2013, crashes in the stretch between Exit 71 and the I-395 interchange had 745 reported injuries and fatalities, the most in the state east of the Connecticut River and about a quarter of all crashes with injuries or fatalities.

After two severe crashes in two days in January 2016, one of which killed two women, state Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, and state Rep. Devin Carney, R-Old Saybrook, called on the Office of the State Traffic Administration to reduce the speed from the Baldwin Bridge past the I-395 interchange to 50 miles per hour.

In their 2016 letter, they said the speed reduction, in addition to lane expansion and extra patrols, would improve driver safety in the area, which carries about 70,000 cars every day.

In response, Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Nursick said the vast majority of crashes between East Lyme and the I-395 interchange are caused by driver errors rather than road conditions. However, in May 2016, DOT Commissioner James P. Redeker said widening the highway in the area would become the long-term solution to the issue after being "on the back burner, if any burner, for too long." 

In November 2016, the DOT announced a study to investigate safety improvements to I-95, with the stretch between the Baldwin Bridge and the Gold Star Bridge between New London and Groton the area "most in need of improvements."

Scene of a motor vehicle accident on I-95 north bound between exits 71 and 70 in Old Lyme Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Scene of a motor vehicle accident on I-95 north bound between exits 71 and 70 in Old Lyme Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Scene of a motor vehicle accident on I-95 north bound between exits 71 and 70 in Old Lyme Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Scene of a motor vehicle accident on I-95 north bound between exits 71 and 70 in Old Lyme Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

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