Rollover leaves driver missing and fire crews searching
GOSHEN - The initial call for a motor vehicle accident at the Whale Inn corner came in at 3:38am.
Responding firefighters were met with 54-degree temperatures and a light to moderate drizzle.
Firefighter / EMT Bill Nugent was first on scene and confirmed the report of a motor vehicle accident but added that the car had rolled over on its side with airbag deployment and there was no sign of the driver.
Fire Chief Sue Labrie was next to arrive on scene and established incident command.
Bob Walden, who lives at 2 Main Street (formerly known as the Whale Inn), explained to arriving units that he was awoken by someone knocking on the front door of his home but by the time he got out of bed to open the door, whoever had knocked was gone.
Deputy Chief Rick Clark arrived with Rescue 1, parked it in a defensive position closing down the eastbound lane of Route 9, and deployed two ‘Emergency Scene Ahead’ signs on both sides of the accident. Traffic cones and turbo flares were also set out to assist in directing early morning traffic around the accident.
Lieutenant Bob Labrie arrived with Engine 1 and set up scene lights to assist responders as they searched the nearby woods in the event that the occupant or occupants had been ejected from the vehicle.
The vehicle left the roadway between the driveway of 1 Main Street and a nearby guardrail, clipped a utility pole, travelled down an embankment and came to rest on its side after hitting a tree. The undercarriage of the car came in contact with a large boulder and took out the rotting stump of an old maple tree.
The engine compartment of the vehicle was still warm to the touch which gave firefighters a sense that the accident had happened recently. Since the car had come to rest on the driver’s side, the passenger side window was up in the air and open. While inspecting the passenger compartment, it was noted that there was no damage to the windshield and no indication that the driver was bleeding. A document which contained a name and Williamsburg address that presumably came from the interior of the vehicle was located and given to the local police that had arrived on scene.
Not knowing how many occupants were in the car, Firefighter / EMT Bill Nugent and Highland Ambulance EMT Mark Leue used the thermal imager to scan the nearby woods for victims. No one was located. In the event the driver went to other houses looking for help, their search continued on Route 9 for approximately 2/10ths of a mile in each direction. Finding no one, they started back at the accident scene and went down both South Main Street and West Street looking in the woods and front yards of nearby homes.
Liebenow’s Towing of Cummington arrived with their flatbed truck and began the process of first righting then extricating the vehicle from the woods.
After the vehicle was removed from the scene, Goshen firefighters collected their equipment and returned to the station. Once there, a radio transmission from Northampton Control advised us that they had received a call from Cooley Dickenson Hospital. The driver of the vehicle involved in the accident was in their Emergency room after having been driven there by a friend.
The Goshen Fire Department would like to remind drivers of the cardinal rule for all car accidents – you should never leave the scene until it is appropriate to do so. A car accident can be very traumatic and sometimes very hard to deal with. Leaving the scene of an accident in which you were involved does not look good and may even subject you to criminal penalties. In this instance, trained emergency personnel had arrived on scene within 10 minutes of the victim knocking on the door of 2 Main Street. Department personnel needlessly searched the surrounding area for some time in an effort to eliminate the chance that a victim lay in a nearby ditch. Luckily, no one was found.
We have since been notified that the driver of the vehicle was a 24-year-old female from West Cummington who explained to State and Local police that she had fallen asleep at the wheel. She was able to get a ride to a friend’s house in Cummington where the decision was made to bring her to the hospital. In order to get there, however, she had to drive right past the accident scene while department members were still there searching for her. She was treated for bumps and bruises from the seatbelt and deployed airbag and released.