WESTFIELD – A New York man may have escaped more serious injury because bystanders and other motorists pulled him from his burning car after he crashed it into a bridge abutment Saturday afternoon.
City police report that at 4:40 p.m. Saturday multiple callers reported the crash at the bridge at the intersection of Pontoosic Road, Little River Road and Feeding Hills Road. The initial callers stated that the operator appeared to be unconscious inside the car which was on fire.
Officer Stephen J. Gonglik reports he arrived to find that a car with New York registration tags had crashed into the abutment and “The vehicle’s front end had been crushed all the way up to the base of the front windshield.”
The operator was immediately transported to Baystate Medical Center.
Gonglik reports that one person at the crash scene said that “they had to pull the operator out of the car because of the fire” and “another bystander had a fire extinguisher in his vehicle that he used to extinguish the fire.”
The responding firefighters report a fire in the vehicle had been extinguished,
Gonglik also spoke with witnesses who had seen the vehicle operating before the crash who said that they had been forced to the side – or off – the roadway by the speeding car, a gray Honda Civic.
One operator told Gonglik that she had seen the car come up behind her a a high rate of speed – she estimated 65 mph – when she had been traveling northbound into Westfield and “they were afraid the vehicle was going to rear end them so they pulled off as far to the right of the road as they could and the vehicle passed them nearly side swiping them.”
Another operator said that he had encountered the same car about 45 minutes earlier when he was traveling north to Westfield and it forced him off the road in a similar fashion. Gonglik found that Agawam police had issued a bulletin to be on the lookout for the vehicle after the witness reported his first encounter with it.
That witness said that on his return trip he saw “the same vehicle was now traveling north but was in his southbound and heading straight for him. He was forced to pull as far to the right as possible to avoid a head on collision.”
Another operator told Gonglik that as she crossed the Little River bridge heading south bound “She saw a blur pass in front of her as (the operator’s) car hit the bridge. She slammed on her brakes as the right front tire of (the operator’s) vehicle had been blown off by the impact and it crashed into the front bumper” of her car.
Gonglik reports that his investigation found “no skid or yaw marks and the tachometer was stuck at approximately 3500 rpm” which indicates that the operator made no attempt to stop before hitting the bridge.
Gonglik was not able to speak withe the operator before he was taken to hospital but reports that he spoke with him by phone after the man had undergone surgery at Baystate Medical Center for broken bones in his arm, ankle and spine.
Gonglik reports the man said that “he had been traveling about 35 mph when an animal crossed his path prior to the right turn and he was unable to stop his vehicle causing it to crash into the bridge.”
The man said that he had no recollection of forcing other cars off the road or operating in the wrong lane. He did admit “that he had smoked marijuana about two hours before the crash but didn’t think that was a factor.”
When asked about his suspended New York license, the operator said he had paid tickets recently and that his license shouldn’t be suspended now.
Gonglik was in custody of the operator’s cell phone and the man allowed the officer to access the phone to look at his texting and cell history to see if it had been a factor. Gonglik found no relevant activity.
Criminal complaints for operating a motor vehicle to endanger, unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and a marked lanes violation were filed.