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Ledyard High School student dead in single-car crash

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Zack Salomonson
Zack Salomonson

Ledyard — A Ledyard High School student died Tuesday when the vehicle he was a passenger in left the roadway, struck a tree and rolled over, police confirmed Wednesday morning.

According to police Chief John Rich, 16-year-old Zackory Salomonson is the deceased.

Rich said police were called to the single-car crash, which happened at 4:12 p.m. about one-tenth of a mile west of Mathewson Mill Road.

Upon arrival, first responders found the driver, 17-year-old Benjamin Buchanan, had climbed out of the overturned 1992 Ford Ranger pickup truck. They transported Buchanan to The William W. Backus Hospital with suspected minor injuries.

Salomonson, who remained in the vehicle, had serious, life-threatening injuries. Officers helped Ledyard Ambulance personnel remove him from the truck. Crews rendered aid to him, but he later was pronounced dead at the scene.

Rich said police determined Buchanan was traveling east when he drove off the right shoulder of the road and hit the tree.

According to Rich, Salomonson, a high school sophomore, resided on Mathewson Mill Road and was just a quarter-mile away from his house when he died.

The Ledyard police accident investigation team closed the road for several hours while working to determine what happened. Rich said the crash remains under investigation.

Tuesday's crash means Ledyard has seen six fatal crashes on roadways not including interstates since Jan. 1, 2015, the UConn Connecticut Crash Data Repository shows. That puts the town in front of Groton, Norwich and Preston, which saw five in the same time period.

Amanda Fagan, Ledyard High School principal, said the school on Wednesday had its full guidance and school psychology staff assigned to crisis teams available for students in need. Middle school guidance counselors and psychologists from the district’s three elementary schools also were on hand.

In a morning announcement to students and staff of the school, Fagan described Salomonson as a jokester who was savvy with hands-on tasks, such as working on cars. The “super-fast sprinter,” she noted, had attended Ledyard schools since third grade.

“What I liked about Zack was the way he looked me in the eye,” Fagan said in her address. “I liked the way his eyes lit up and his face broke into a smile when we talked about track. I liked his ability to focus on the things he loved — on running, on mechanics, on his grandmother who raised him.”

She called on the student body to also support Salomonson’s friend, Buchanan, because his “life was forever changed yesterday, as well.”

“I’m going to end with the same thoughts I shared after Thanksgiving, when, impossibly, our school dealt with a similar tragedy,” Fagan said, referring to 14-year-old Conor Irwin, who died in December after a skateboarding wreck.

The death of a high school student, she said, is sobering.

“It’s simply not supposed to happen quite like this,” Fagan said. “Teenagers shouldn’t lose their friends; athletes shouldn’t lose their teammates; parents shouldn’t bury their children. There is no playbook, no neat set of rules for enduring a tragedy like this together. But that’s the word we’ll latch onto in the coming days: ‘together.’”


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