Falling tree kills Sudbury engineer, 61, in Lenox

Friday July 6, 2012

LENOX -- An accomplished systems engineer for a major Boston-area technology research firm was killed Wednesday night by a tree that fell on him as he and his wife were walking up Richmond Mountain Road after the James Taylor concert at Tanglewood.

In ruling the death as an accident, Lenox Police investigators said Lester J. Holtzblatt, 61, of Sudbury, was killed when the tree, which was rotted out, suddenly landed on him.

Lenox Senior Police Officer Timothy Sheehan termed the tragedy "an act of God."

Lenox Police said the couple had parked their car at the nearby Kripalu spa's rear lot and were on their way -- single file up the southern side of the roadway -- to retrieve it.

Holtzblatt's wife, Karen, was uninjured and in seclusion on Thursday.

The accident, reported by callers to 911 at the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department, took place just before 10:25 p.m., a few minutes after Tanglewood's Independence Day fireworks display concluded over Stockbridge Bowl.

Taylor's concert ended at about 9:50.

"We were deeply saddened to hear that such a tragic accident happened on Richmond Moun tain Road after last night's Fourth of July concert," said Mark Volpe, managing director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which operates Tanglewood. "Our most sincere condolences go out to the family of Mr. Holtzblatt."

First to arrive on the scene was Maj. Tom Grady, the officer in charge of the Sheriff's Department detail for all major events at Tanglewood. He told The Eagle that he and the County Ambulance unit always stationed near the summer festival's main gate were on the scene just moments after 911 calls began coming in.

Lenox Police responded within five minutes, using Undermountain Road as an emergency alternate route, standard procedure when one-way traffic from the main gate up to the center of Lenox is in effect to expedite drivers exiting Tanglewood concerts.

"When we got there, the gentleman was lying under the tree, with no pulse or breathing," Grady said.

Despite CPR that Grady and County Ambulance re sponders administered, Holtz blatt was pronounced dead on arrival at Berkshire Medical Center. His wife was transported separately to the hospital by Stockbridge Police Officer Bruce Stringer.

"He was in cardiac arrest with probable trauma; it was a tragic loss of life," Grady said, describing the portion of the dead tree that struck Holtz blatt as 12 inches in diameter.

A portion of the 20-foot-long tree was being held as evidence at the Lenox police station on Thursday, while the rest remained at the scene.

Grady confirmed that skid marks indicated a vehicle had swerved, hitting the tree lying across the darkened road.

Richmond Mountain Road, which is off Route 183 and becomes Lenox Mountain Road when it crosses into Richmond, criss-crosses the Lenox and Stockbridge town lines three times, according to a map provided by the Stock bridge Board of Assessors.

"A survey would be needed," said Stockbridge Police Chief Richard "Rick" Wilcox, "but it appears that the tree was in Lenox and the portion of the road it hit was in Stockbridge. It's a tragedy all around."

Lenox Department of Public Works Superintendent Jeffrey Vincent agreed, noting that "it's a matter of inches, a complicated location that would require extensive survey work to establish precise accuracy.

Vincent and other officials pinpointed the location of the incident as just east of the entrance to the Boston Symphony's Serenak estate, across from a Kripalu maintenance shed.

Holtzblatt was a resident of Sudbury, a town adjoining Framingham and Concord. He had been employed by the worldwide MITRE Corp., with principal offices in Bedford and in McLean, Va., as a systems engineer in the nonprofit company's information technology division. He began his career there in 1985, and after a hiatus, rejoined the company in 2005, according to Catherine Craw ford, executive director of corporate communications and public affairs.

She said the company, which employs 7,500 scientists, engineers and support specialists, was "shocked and saddened" at the news.

"Les contributed enormously to MITRE's technical capabilities in his nearly 20 years of service," said Bernie Hall, his division manager. "He will be missed by his friends and colleagues in the MITRE community. Our sincere sympathies are with his family during this difficult time."

The company, formed in 1958, has specialized in systems engineering, information technology and enterprise modernization, and has worked with the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Courts system, and the De partment of Veterans Affairs.


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