Stonington police stop another wrong-way driver on I-95

Stonington — A Stonington police officer was able to intercept a wrong-way driver on Interstate 95 late Saturday night before he could crash into other vehicle.

It was the second time in four days that a Stonington officer had stopped a wrong-way driver on the highway before an accident occurred.

The two incidents follow a string of three wrong-way drivers over the past 14 months who have entered the highway at exits here, causing serious crashes and killing seven people.

Capt. Todd Olson said Sunday that Police Chief J. Darren Stewart has been talking with state Sen. Heather Somers and the state Department of Transportation about making further safety improvements at the exits to prevent further wrong-way drivers.

Police said that at 11:30 p.m. Saturday they were notified by Groton Fire Alarm dispatch that it had received multiple 911 calls reporting a driver traveling southbound in the northbound high-speed lane of the highway in the area of Exit 93.

Stonington officers responded to the highway’s northbound ramps in an attempt to stop the wrong-way driver.

Officer Britten Friend, who had driven up the northbound ramp at Exit 91, then spotted a black Jaguar sedan with one headlight traveling southbound in the northbound high-speed lane. Friend turned to follow the car, activated his cruiser’s lights and sirens and began to catch up with the wrong-way driver, who was still in the left, high-speed lane.

Stonington police said that as Friend began to pursue the car, there were only two vehicles northbound and they were pulling into the right-hand breakdown lane. Friend was able to stop the driver in the high-speed lane approximately one-tenth of a mile south of Exit 91. He then turned his cruiser around to block the high-speed lane.

Police said the driver of a the car, an 80-year-old man who was driving with a suspended license, told police he was heading to Norwalk. Police said the man did not appear to be impaired and was not aware he was driving in the wrong direction. Shortly after the car was stopped, state police arrived and took over the investigation. The man’s name was not available from state police Sunday.

Olson commended the actions of Friend along with Stonington Police dispatcher William Palmer, Sgt. Timothy Marley and officer Ryan Rogers and Nicholas Long with safely stopping the driver before a tragedy occurred.

“I am very grateful and proud of our dispatcher, sergeant and officers that performed flawlessly in this very dangerous and unfortunate incident,” Olson said.

Olson said that last Wednesday at 12:45 p.m., Officer Herbert Barrell was on patrol on Route 2 in Pawcatuck when he spotted a car turn southbound onto the Interstate 95 off-ramp that leads to the northbound lanes of the highway. Olson said Barrell followed the car up the ramp and was able to quickly stop the driver, an elderly man who was suffering from a medical issue and was taken to the hospital.

Last October, a Westerly teen driving the wrong way in the area of Exit 92 struck another car, killing herself and an elderly couple in the othe car. Three others were hurt.   

In March 2019, a man driving his car the wrong way, again in the area of Exit 91, struck a truck, killing himself and the truck driver. The crash involved four vehicles and 10 people, including one who was seriously injured.

In December 2018, a Groton man driving the wrong way on the highway near Exit 91 struck another car, killing his passenger and a passenger in the other car.

In 2010, a driver drove up the off-ramp at Exit 91 and continued south in the northbound lanes until he smashed into a car near Exit 90, killing himself and the other driver.

j.wojtas@theday.com

 

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