Three crashes on I-95 kept rescuers, hospitals busy for hours

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Waterford — Cohanzie Fire Chief Todd Branche said dispatchers didn’t have to inform firefighters of Sunday’s second accident on the town’s stretch of Interstate 95 South because they heard it.

The fire department is on Dayton Road and Branche said as soon as they heard the 9:30 p.m. multi-vehicle crash, they were out the door.

“Some of the firefighters were in the bay putting away apparatus from responding to the earlier accident,” said Branche referring to a 7:05 p.m. accident near Exit 81 on Interstate 95 south. “We still had some of our guys at the first scene, when we had to go out to respond.”

Three I-95 accidents on Sunday, the first in Old Lyme and two in Waterford, involved 16 vehicles, injuring more than 20 people and killing one. The highway in Waterford was closed for nearly nine hours, reopening at 6:13 a.m. Monday.

Michael O’Farrell, spokesman at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, said the emergency room was well equipped to deal with the challenging circumstances. He said an off-duty physician who was on the highway at the time went to the hospital to lend a hand.

Branche said the first responders also were up to the challenge.

“It was a difficult scene, but we do a lot of training for it,” he said. “... In fact this month’s training is focused on vehicle extrication. The guys did very well.”

In the 9:30 p.m. accident, state police said a tractor trailer driven by Kevin Custer, 60, of Swansea, Mass., struck three cars — one driven by Vikram Dhawan, 39, of New York; a second car driven by Cheryl Laffey, 59, of Waterford; and a third car driven by Jason Grant, 38, of Attleboro, Mass.

Police said Grant’s car struck a car driven by Adam Miller, age not available, of North Port, Fla. Miller’s car struck a vehicle driven by Andrew Southard, 32, of Allentown, Pa., who in turn struck a car that was driven by Gabriela Cajal, 44, of Clifton, N.J.

A passenger in Dhawan’s car sustained a serious injury. Saumya Arora, 33, was taken to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, where she was flown by Life Star helicopter to Yale-New Haven Hospital. A spokeswoman at Yale-New Haven said Arora was in critical condition Monday.

State police said a total of five people were taken to L+M and one person to The William W. Backus Hospital. All were expected to survive, police said.

The tractor trailer was carrying frozen food, and the state Department of Consumer Protection was informed as a result. State police said that the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection along with an environmental contractor helped with the cleanup.

Crash takes one life

As the result of an earlier accident, at 7:05 p.m., Dacari Robinson, 2, was pronounced dead at the scene in a crash involving four vehicles. He was one of four occupants in a Nissan Sentra traveling south on I-95, in the area just south of Exit 81, that had either stopped or was slowing due to traffic congestion from an earlier accident in Old Lyme.

State police said a tractor trailer registered to Gold Medal Bakery and driven by 58-year-old Gerard S. Dube of Swansea, Mass., also southbound, struck three vehicles: the Nissan Sentra, a Toyota Scion in front of the Sentra and finally a Dodge pick-up truck.

Seven people were taken for treatment to L+M.

Sanaa Robinson, who turned 9 on Sunday, and Darin Robinson, 26, who were both in the Sentra with Dacari, were taken to the hospital for treatment of serious injuries. The driver, Baughnita Leary, 25, was treated for a possible head injury. All are from Meriden.

Peter Driscoll and Bradley Brown, both 21 and of New London, who were occupants of the Toyota Scion, were treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Steven Loiler, 26, of Oakdale, the driver of the pickup truck, was also treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

Dube was not injured but “shaken up,” according to police.

Third accident at 9:30

Branche said when they arrived at the scene of the 9:30 p.m. accident, CPR was being performed and emergency personnel were able to restore a pulse to one of the victims.

Branche said 13 people were involved in the accident. He said he had to shut down the on-ramp onto Interstate 95 south from Route 85. He said closing the ramp kept emergency responders from getting caught up in traffic from the first accident. He said crews entered and exited the highway from the ramp.

He said all of the town’s fire departments and six ambulances, including one from New London, responded to the accident.

O’Farrell, the L+M spokesman, said four patients involved in both Waterford accidents were taken by Life Star helicopter to Yale-New Haven Hospital. The helicopter made four trips to the hospital, he said.

Earlier in the day state police from Troop F in Westbrook responded to a multi-car accident on I-95 South between Exits 70 and 71.

Police said at 4:23 p.m. a tour bus driven by Shuxian Zhou, 59, of Flushing, N.Y., failed to stop in heavy traffic, causing a chain-reaction crash involving four vehicles. The bus was registered to Blue Sky Bus Tours of Syosset, N.Y.

Police said the following drivers were also involved in the crash: Daniel Chapman, 28, of Sandwich, Mass.; Sherry Lin, 43, of Westerly; Karl Kurland, 29, of Sharon; and Kendra Matthew, 30, of New York City.

All of the cars, with the exceptions of Matthew’s vehicle, were towed to area auto body shops.

Police said 15 people were taken from the scene to the Shoreline Clinic in Westbrook with minor injuries.

Police said all three accidents are under investigation.

Any of the first responders involved in the response from Sunday’s crash was invited to a critical incident stress debriefing to be held at the Oswegatchie fire department Monday evening.

“It’s an opportunity for firefighters and EMTs to talk about anything they might have seen that bothered them,” said Goshen Fire Department Deputy Chief Neil Wiseman.

“Trauma affects everybody in a different way,” Wiseman said.

i.larraneta@theday.com

Twitter: @larraneta

g.smith@theday.com

Twitter: @SmittyDay

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