Semi drivers unhurt in East Dorset truck crash

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EAST DORSET — The collision of two tractor-trailers Monday spilled milk across Route 7 in East Dorset, snarled morning traffic and forced the closure of roads for close to eight hours.

The collision occurred as one truck driver was trying to make a milk and dairy delivery and was struck broadside by another truck hauling wood chips

to Bennington.

William Santin, 54, of Barre, was backing his Hood milk and dairy delivery semi across Route 7 from Mad Tom Road to Squirrel Hollow Road to the loading zone at the East Dorset General Store when his truck was struck by another tractor-trailer rig driven by Wilfred Gagnon, 83, of Pittsford, police said.

Gagnon, owner of Gagnon Lumber in Pittsford, was hauling a load of hardwood chips destined for a school in Bennington when his truck ripped through the trailer of the Hood truck. The impact tore the Hood trailer into several pieces and sent milk and dairy products across the roadway.

Gagnon, who said he didn't see the other truck until the crash was imminent, hit the trailer and continued down the road. Gagnon estimated his load at 80,000 to 90,000 pounds, which pushed the truck 100 yards through two power poles, roadway signs and into a small river running parallel to the roadway.

Angel Galiano was inside the general store and said she heard a big bang, like an explosion and, along with others, went to see what happened.

"Everybody ran outside," Galiano said. "It shook the store."

She said they got outside to see Santin climbing out of the relatively undamaged cab.

A couple hundred yards to the south, off the left side of the road, Gagnon was trying to untangle himself from the wreckage of his truck, which had stayed on its wheels throughout its trip into the river.

Gagnon said he simply didn't see Santin's truck in the darkness until it was too late.

"By the time my headlights hit the side of that truck blocking the road, what can I do?" Gagnon said. "I didn't have long to think about it. It was all over."

Gagnon said the crash was a wild ride. He said when he hit the trailer, he lost control of his truck.

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"I was just in for the ride at that point," Gagnon said. "I wasn't driving anymore. I was bouncing around the cab and I expected to wind up tipping over. That's not a not a good spot right there to be tipping over."

When the truck came to a stop, he said it was dark and he couldn't get his foot loose. He was afraid the truck would catch fire and wanted to get out so he flipped on a headlamp he keeps in his shirt pocket and was able to pull his foot from his boot and then free the boot and climb out.

Santin was taken to Rutland Regional Medical Center by Northshire Rescue as a precaution for what police called minor injuries. Gagnon was not injured and stayed at the scene throughout the recovery of what was left of his truck from the river.

People who talked to the driver of the Hood truck said he told them he saw Gagnon coming and tried to pull forward, but couldn't get his truck out of the way in time.

Vermont State Police said the crash is under investigation, and anyone with information is asked to contact Cpl. Travis Hess in the Shaftsbury Barracks.

Vermont State Police were assisted at the scene by fire departments from East Dorset, Dorset and Danby, as well as the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles, Green Mountain Power and Consolidated Communications. Northshire Rescue was on scene as well.

Dorr companies out of Manchester were called in to clean up the roadway, and Donald Dorr and Gagnon, who are friends, watched the effort and occasionally grabbed tools and climbed under the trailer themselves.

Bruce Davis, the general store manager, said when first responders had the power cut for safety, power to their fuel pumps and computers effectively shut them down. So the store gave away their breakfast sandwiches they had prepared and coffee to first responders, who were appreciative with the temperatures in the high teens and a cold wind blowing.

"I'm just glad nobody got hurt," Davis said.

The next night, the Dorset Select Board met a couple of hundred yards from the site of the crash and discussed the safety measures the town has been working on and whether or not the crash would help them convince the state the town needed help to make the area safer.

Dorset has been working to improve the safety of that stretch of road and slow traffic. The town installed radar signs that flash a driver's speed at both ends of the village area, added lighting and increased traffic patrols.

Additional efforts including a road diet to narrow the lanes, addition of a crosswalk, flashing beacons and more to further impress upon drivers the dangers of the area.

Contact Darren Marcy at dmarcy@manchesterjournal.com or 802-681-6534.


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