Trucking Company Sues New Hampshire over Fatal Crash

January 30, 2009

A Canadian trucking company is suing New Hampshire’s Department of Transportation, alleging its failure to clear ice and snow off Interstate 93 led to the death of a 6-year-old boy.

Brendon Mahoney was killed in February 2007 when his mother’s van was hit by a tractor-trailer that jackknifed on the slippery road. Last month, his mother won a $2.5 million settlement from the trucking company, but the company, Fidele Tremblay of Sainte-Luce, Quebec, now is suing the state.

The lawsuit claims no sand or salt was applied to the road the morning of the crash, despite eight calls from the state police requesting treatment. Though only trace amounts of snow had fallen since a storm the day before, several state troopers called the highway a “skating rink” the day of the crash.

In depositions, troopers described the slippery conditions and blasted road crews for ignoring their requests.

“It always seems there’s some type of excuse,” said Trooper Bryan Trask. “(We) actually go into the sheds and talk to them, ask them what can be done to treat the roads better. (They) always seem to come up with an excuse. There’s either a truck broken down, somebody called out sick, something to that effect.”

Trask said his cruiser slid as he approached the accident site.

“I remember when I got out of the car, I almost fell down because it was slippery,” he said. “You couldn’t even stand. You had to almost skate your feet across the pavement to avoid falling.”

State Trooper Susan Harbour, who regularly patrols in the area, agreed with Trask.

“I, personally, have complained, and I know other troopers have complained,” she said in a deposition.

A DOT supervisor called the suit disappointing but refused to comment further. Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Boynton said 20 plows generally clear the area stretching from Manchester to the Massachusetts border, and that turnpikes and interstates are the department’s highest priority given the volume of traffic.

The attorney general’s office has until April to file a response in Rockingham County Superior Court, according to Lynmarie Cusack, assistant attorney general.

“People have different perceptions of things,” she said. “A state trooper might have one way of seeing things while a highway worker may have another … somewhere in the middle is probably the real answer.”


Information from: New Hampshire Union Leader

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