Union-News (Springfield, MA)
Author: HOWARD DUPUIS
GOSHEN, MA – Two people died in separate accidents in Western Massachusetts yesterday, as rain, sleet and snow put a dangerous glaze on the region’s roads, and thick fog and holiday traffic made for treacherous traveling throughout the day.
One of the fatal accidents occurred in Amherst, the other in Goshen.
In Amherst, the wife of a University of Massachusetts teaching assistant died yesterday afternoon when the car she was riding in swerved into the opposite lane and collided with a pickup truck at Main and Salem streets, police said.
Jie Sun of G28 North Village, on the UMass campus, was killed in the accident that occurred about 12:15 p.m. Sun was the wife of Daming Shi, 42, same address, who was driving the car, Sgt. John Wroblewski said.
Shi was in critical condition at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, a nursing supervisor said.
The truck was driven by Arthur Sweeney, 22, of Pitt Street, North Adams, who was uninjured, Livingstone said.
In Goshen, Robert P. Otis, 41, of Main Street, Ashfield, was killed about 8:30 p.m. Saturday when the car he was driving slid into a tree. The one-car crash occurred at the bottom of a hill on Route 9 about one mile west of Williamsburg, state Trooper Darlene DeCaire said.
Throughout the evening, police radios throughout the region buzzed with calls for public works trucks to sand roads, and for assistance in blocking off ice-slickened streets.
At one point, State Police in Northampton closed Interstate 91 near the Route 9 exit. Police reported at least a half-dozen accidents in the area near the exit, but no injuries.
The northbound section of the road was closed at Exit 19, at about 7 p.m., and after state Department of Public Works trucks responded to the scene and sanded the area, the road was reopened shortly after 8 p.m., police said.
In Holyoke, icy conditions caused several cars to slide off roads into ditches across the city.
Officer Jack Craven said five cars slid off Rock Valley Road between 5 and 6 p.m. Similar incidents occurred on Southampton Road and on an access road in the Mount Tom ski area.
City tow trucks and sanders were sent to free motorists and improve road traction.
Although conditions were expected to improve later last night, traveling today was not expected to be any picnic.
Forecasters with the National Weather Service at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., predicted warming temperatures last night were expected to bring improved travel conditions.
However, meteorologist Scott Whittier said a cold front would move through the region early this morning, and would bring temperatures back below freezing by nighttime.
“Temperatures will be generally above freezing in the morning and then falling throughout the day,” Whittier said.
In Chicopee, about 30 people were left homeless after an early morning fire ravaged a rooming house early yesterday.
One man suffered burns after the fire started in his room at 2-4 Springfield St.
There were no other injuries.
Because the New Year’s weekend is traditionally one of the busiest travel periods of the year on the nation’s highways, state police yesterday added patrols to keep a lookout for drunken drivers and to assist stranded motorists.
One trooper, Thomas J. Daly, from the Springfield barracks, was out last night patrolling the area highways, keeping an eye out for drunken drivers, disabled motor vehicles and answering calls from the barracks.
Daly, a native of Longmeadow who now lives in Chicopee, was waiting for a tow truck to remove a disabled vehicle on the Exit 1 ramp off Interstate 91 last night when he heard a call that a woman had seen a car go off the road on Interstate 391 near the Grattan Street exit.
He quickly made sure the tow truck driver had things under control, and within minutes was at the scene in Chicopee, but found nothing.
Back on 91, Daly took a tour up north to the Ingleside exit, turned around and headed south again.
All the while, Daly was on the lookout for drunken drivers. Noting a group of cars slightly ahead of him, he pointed out that the well-spaced cars were in line, with no sign of anyone weaving in or out of traffic, or drifting to one side or the other.
Before Daly headed out on the road last night, he and Trooper Michael J. Domnarski talked about keeping drunks off the roads.
Despite some talk across the nation that there are fewer people drinking and driving these days, Domnarski said, “I think if you just shake the bushes a little bit harder, you’ll find the people are there.”
Both Domnarski and Daly are hopeful that increased attention to the dangers of drinking and driving will do some good, but neither is so optimistic to believe that the problem will go away.
Even if harsher penalties were put into place, Daly said, “I still think drinking and driving is going to be a product of our society . . . People are going to drink to try to solve their problems.”
“Drinking,” Domnarski said, “has always been a problem . . . and it’s always going to be.”