Crash kills Norwich firefighter

Norwich firefighter Ben De Mond
Norwich firefighter Ben De Mond

Montville - The conditions of two children remain unchanged Sunday following a Friday night collision on Interstate 395 that killed their father.

Connecticut Children's Medical Center spokesman Eric Berthel said this morning that Cole De Mond, 4 , remains in fair condition and six-year-old Alex De Mond is critical.

Their father, 33-year-old Norwich firefighter Benjamin De Mond, died at the scene of the 9 p.m. crash.

Police have charged a Groton man with drunken driving in connection to the accident.

De Mond, a native of Washington state, was new to Connecticut when he joined the Norwich Fire Department on March 2, 2006, Norwich Fire Battalion Chief Bradley Keltonic said.

"He was a very respectful, quiet, hard-working guy who really worked hard at learning the job," Keltonic, who at the time was De Mond's captain, said. "It's very difficult when you come from a different area to learn all of the streets and the city, and he just worked very hard as a probationary firefighter to learn his job."

Police said the accident occurred shortly after 9 p.m. Friday when Willis Goodale, 50, of Groton attempted to cut across I-395 South between exits 79 and 79A via the emergency turnaround after leaving the Mobil service station.

De Mond was southbound on I-395 when he tried unsuccessfully to avoid Goodale's Jeep Cherokee and lost control of his Nissan Maxima. After the collision, De Mond's car passed through the turnaround and into oncoming traffic, police said, hitting Montville resident Andrew Crouch's Ford Explorer 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 listed in fair condition Sunday night at The William W. Backus Hospital. His condition was not available this morning.

Goodale and Fisher were not injured, state police said.

State police charged Goodale Saturday with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He was being held on $1 million bond, police said, and due in Norwich Superior Court on Monday.

Saturday afternoon, members of the Norwich Fire Department recalled a fellow firefighter with "an infectious smile," according to Keltonic.

"He was a family man with two sons and spent every moment that he wasn't here with them," Keltonic said.

Assigned to Engine 3, what De Mond relished most about the job was the tight-knit community he found in the firehouse, Capt. Keith Wucik said. Because his ex-wife lived in Watertown and De Mond was new to the area, he didn't have many friends when he first came to Norwich, Wucik said.

"We were like his family," he said.

De Mond was one of the firefighters who responded to the April 28 fire that destroyed the 120-unit Peachtree Apartments. He received a unit citation for that response, Keltonic said.

De Mond was an athlete and often could be seen running near the firehouse on North Thames Street on his days off, Wucik said. Also a member of local baseball and softball leagues, De Mond was active in the firefighters' IAFF Local 892 union and its annual golf tournament, Wucik said.

"He was just one of those guys that walked in (and) everybody liked him," Lt. Scott Suplita said. "There was nothing bad to say about him."

Day Staff Writer Karen Florin contributed to this report.


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