Questions remain about double-fatal, wrong-way crash on I-95

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Stonington — State police, citing an ongoing investigation, declined to release new information Monday about the Interstate 95 wrong-way crash that left two people dead and three seriously injured early Sunday.

Police said Sunday that Jose Gonzalez, 38, of 57 South Road, Groton, was driving a Lexus north in the southbound lanes when he crashed into a Toyota Prius, being driven by Stephane Francois, 26, of Brockton, Mass., about a mile east of Exit 91.

The 12:45 a.m. collision killed Gonzalez’s passenger, 37-year-old Eric Ramakers of Phoenix, Ariz., and a passenger in the Prius, 26-year-old Lorna Valcin of Braintree, Mass.

Helicopter and ambulance crews took Gonzalez, Francois and another Prius passenger — Jerome Aullychad, 26, of Elmont, N.Y. — to Rhode Island Hospital with suspected serious injuries.

Rhode Island Hospital spokesman David Levesque said only Francois remained in the hospital Monday evening. She was in fair condition.

Police declined to answer questions about which ramp Gonzalez used to access the highway and where he was going. Police also didn’t say whether anyone reported the wrong-way driver before the crash. 

Police said they have not charged Gonzalez in the crash. Fatal crash investigations commonly take months, if not years, in Connecticut.

Wrong-way crashes in Connecticut

Connecticut had between 550 and 700 wrong-way or wrong side crashes in each of the last five years, with 407 so far this year, data from the UConn Connecticut Crash Data Repository show.

About half of the crashes caused property damage only. Between five and 18 were fatal in any given year.

The most recent local wrong-way crash in the database happened on Ocean Avenue near Squire Street in New London Nov. 1. Data show the afternoon, head-on crash in front of 136 Ocean Ave. caused only minor injuries.

In 2010, Exit 91 was at the heart of another fatal wrong-way crash — one in which 36-year-old Lance Lewis, who had not been drinking, drove south in the northbound lanes until he crashed into a car driven by 46-year-old Terrence Garbuzinski.

Both men died in the crash, whose cause police never determined.

A Stonington police officer said at the time the off-ramp is confusing because, if a person is driving on Pequot Trail, it’s “dead straight ahead of you.”

The same is not true of the southbound Exit 91 off-ramp, which is perpendicular to Taugwonk Road. Two sets of large, red "wrong way" signs warn drivers who try to drive up the southbound off-ramp.  

A 2011 state Senate bill, inspired in part by the Stonington crash, proposed installing “wrong way” tire spikes on highway ramps. It failed because of cost and the issues it could cause for first responders and snowplow drivers.

l.boyle@theday.com

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