Bennington Police Lt. Lloyd Dean said 86-year-old Ruth Cherbonneau, of Arlington, was pronounced dead at the scene after her 1999 Honda Civic crossed the center line of Route 7A and struck a pickup. The accident occurred around 11:20 a.m., several hundred yards north of Houghton and Rice lanes.
Cherbonneau struck 69-year-old Edward Legacy, of Shaftsbury, who was driving a 2002 Chevrolet pickup.
Dean said Cherbonneau's car briefly caught fire but was extinguished by a passerby.
Police, fire and rescue crews at the scene found Legacy lying down on a lawn. He was able to exit his truck and await medical attention. Cherbonneau, however, was trapped inside her car and unresponsive. Dean said paramedics attempted several life-saving measures while members of the Bennington Rural Fire Department worked to extricate her from the vehicle.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation. Cherbonneau was driving southbound on Route 7A when she crossed the center line, police said. "She went left of center for some reason and accelerated," Dean said.
Legacy attempted to avoid the collision by swerving off the road and into a drainage ditch, according to Dean. The left front of Cherbonneau's vehicle struck the left front of Legacy's truck, driving it backward for a short distance. Both vehicles had serious front-end damage and ended up in a ditch along the northbound lane.
A helicopter was called to the scene to airlift Cherbonneau, but it was eventually canceled. Cherbonneau was pronounced dead at the scene by a member of the Bennington Rescue Squad after consulting with a doctor at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, Dean said. Cherbonneau suffered internal injuries and fractures, he said.
Cherbonneau's body will be transported today to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Burlington for an autopsy.
Dean said anyone witnessed the crash should contact the Bennington Police Department at 802-442-1030.