Saturday October 13, 2012

LENOX -- An alert convenience-store clerk was credited by Lenox Police on Friday with averting a potential disaster when a motorist lost control of her vehicle and struck a gas pump at the Lipton Mobil Mart at the Holmes Road-Pittsfield Road (Route 7 & 20) intersection.

It was a close call, but there were no injuries and a possible fuel leak, fire or explosion hazard was avoided when the clerk, Susan Rogers, 37, of Pitts field, hit an emergency "all-stop" button to cut off the flow of fuel to the damaged pump, said Lenox Police Chief Stephen O'Brien.

The 4:15 p.m. incident on Thurs day was captured by the surveillance video camera at the store.

It showed the vehicle, a 2004 Toyota Camry driven by Sylvia Silver berg, 82, of the Rolling Hills condominiums in Lenox, pulling into the station, hitting a concrete barrier, narrowly missing a pedestrian emerging from the store before plowing into a car parked at the station's air pump. The video was not released publicly.

Silverberg's car then careened around a corner in reverse, accelerating at high speed, before coming to rest at one of the gas pumps and another concrete pillar.

"She was going as fast as that car can go in reverse," O'Brien said, noting smoke from the Toyota's spinning tires visible on the video.

Working her regular shift on Friday afternoon, Rogers acknowledged the experience was "a little scary." She has been employed at gas stations for nearly six years, a year and a half at the Pittsfield Road location.

"When I saw the car hit the pump over there and saw it lean down, I knew enough to hit the all-stop button to prevent a catastrophe that could have happened," she said. "I figured it was either that, or me, so I played it safe."

"I was startled, I saw what was going on, I kind of went into a panic mode but then I was like, ‘OK, gotta get my senses going and hit the all-stop button and did what I had to do.'"

"Basically, all I did was do my job," she added modestly. "I called 911 and they knew enough to call the fire company and everyone else.

"It's the first time I've ever seen anything like that happen in all my years," said Rogers.

Lenox Police Officer William Fuore, coincidentally just leaving the station after stopping in for coffee, witnessed the crash.

Lenox Fire and Ambulance responded quickly. The damaged Toyota and the parked Kia were both towed to Hoff's Mobil in Lenox.

Silverberg told investigating officer Sean Ward that she hit the accelerator instead of the brakes, according to the Lenox Police incident report.

The Registry of Motor Vehicles in Boston was notified that the driver represented "an immediate threat and should no longer be operating a motor vehicle," said O'Brien. Her license is expected to be suspended pending a hearing for possible reinstatement if the motorist can prove that her ability to drive is not impaired.

Because the accident took place on private property, no police citations could be issued, O'Brien explained.

"Everybody in this situation was lucky," he added.

"I wouldn't say that a majority of our accidents are caused by elderly drivers," said O'Brien. "But I wouldn't be opposed to the Legislature looking into retraining or re-testing elderly drivers at a certain age."

To reach Clarence Fanto:
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On Twitter: @BE_cfanto