Drivers recovering in wake of North Adams truck crash


NORTH ADAMS -- The drivers of two tractor-trailers involved in a head-on collision near the intersection of Union and Beaver streets on Monday afternoon were recovering in separate hospitals, officials said.

The accident, which occurred at about 3:30 p.m., closed the section of Route 2 between East Main and Miner streets until early Tuesday morning as the State Police Accident Reconstruction truck team investigated the scene.

"We haven't experienced an accident of this magnitude, involving two tractor-trailer trucks, in a very long time," said North Adams Police Director Michael Cozzaglio.

Mihai Goaga, 39, of Revere, the driver of a westbound truck that reportedly lost its brakes at the Hairpin Turn on Monday afternoon, was listed in fair condition at Albany Medical Center, where he was flown by helicopter on Monday night. Albany Medical Center only lists patient conditions as being fair, serious or critical.

Michael Lemieux, 53, of Bennington, Vt., the driver of the eastbound truck, was listed in stable condition at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield.

Information about the extent of the patients' injuries could not be learned.

Two cars involved

Two other cars were involved with the accident, Cozzaglio said. A Toyota Highlander driven by Susan Konopka, 57, of North Adams, sustained major front-end damage, and a Honda Civic driven by Kevin P. Callanan, 52, of North Adams, sustained minor damage.

Neither driver was hospitalized, according to North Adams Regional Hospital, where they had been expected to seek treatment.

Cozzaglio said preliminary information shows the driver lost control of the truck after its brakes failed. Eyewitnesses reported smoke could be seen coming from the truck's brakes as it headed west on Route 2, he said.

"Coincidentally, there was a state police officer who was behind the truck, who made every effort to stop the truck up on the flats near West Shaft Road," Cozzaglio said.

Tried to use embankment

A media representative for the state police confirmed that a trooper who was on his way to work observed the truck heading downhill at a high rate of speed. The trooper activated his lights and siren to try to get the driver's attention, but the truck did not stop.

According to initial reports, Goaga, the driver of the runaway truck, attempted to slow down by riding an embankment alongside the eastbound lane across from Beaver Street before colliding head-on with the tractor-trailer traveling east on Union Street.

The westbound truck then crossed the road, hit the guardrail and came to rest against a concrete wall next to the Eclipse Dam.

A telephone pole at the corner of Union and Gallup streets was sheared off, Cozzaglio said, and a house at 358 Union St. was also hit.

Cozzaglio said the state police truck team investigated the overall condition of the truck, including whether the brake system was working properly. Some information, including how fast the truck was traveling at impact, will not be available until the truck team completes its report.

"It could be at least a week before we see the results," Cozzaglio said.

Fuel, cooking oil spilled

Cozzaglio said the accident resulted in more than 100 gallons of diesel fuel being released onto the road and into the grass next to the Hoosic River. In addition, cooking oil the westbound truck was hauling also spilled onto the roadway, Cozzaglio said.

The state Department of Environmental Protection was notified immediately and worked to clean up the site on Monday night and Tuesday, he said, and was expected to return Wednesday.

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