Update: 1 dead in car crash at Pittsfield High School

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PITTSFIELD - One person was killed and another was injured on Tuesday after their speeding car jumped the curb outside Pittsfield High School, struck a tree and slammed into a wall, authorities said.

Firefighters had to extricate the victims from the mangled wreck, with first responders seen giving CPR to one of them. Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, citing a police source, confirmed one of the occupants died.

Both victims were transported by ambulance to Berkshire Medical Center, police said. The identity of the victims and the condition of the survivor could not be learned late Tuesday.

One of the victims was from Berkshire County, police confirmed, but it wasn't clear which one.

No students or staff were hurt in the crash, according to Pittsfield High Principal Matt Bishop in an electronic alert sent to the school community.

According to eyewitness accounts, police say the 2013 Nissan Altima, a Hertz rental car, was airborne before it crashed into the wall.

Katherine Mortensen, 16, a sophomore, saw the crash as she waited for a ride on the front steps of the school. She saw the Nissan, traveling from Second Street, cross the four lanes of East Street without attempting to turn at the intersection, jump the curb, strike a tree and then do a 360 degree turn in the air before slamming into the concrete barrier.

"It's like they wanted to kill themselves," she said.

"Everybody stood in shock," added Justin Lee, of Pittsfield, who heard the crash as he walked past the front of the school.

The sound of the crash could be heard several blocks away.

"It sounded like thunder," said Michael Hicks, who had just exited the Berkshire Athenaeum at the corner of East Street and Wendell Avenue.

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Witnesses told The Eagle and police that the car was traveling at an excessive rate of speed; the area is posted at 25 mph.

Pittsfield Police Capt. David Granger said the car seems to have exploded after striking the barrier.

"Speed was certainly a factor," he said.

The crash took place just before 2:50 p.m. - 30 minutes after school had let out for the day. Had the crash occurred during the scheduled 2:20 dismissal, dozens of cars and hundreds of students would have been in the area of the crash.

"It's a miracle no other kids or vehicles were involved," Mayor Bianchi said at the scene.

Some students who were outside at the time of the crash were ordered to go back inside.

"We had students in the building who had thought something had exploded," Pittsfield Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless said at the scene.

East Street traffic heading east was down to one lane during the busy afternoon commute as police, fire and other emergency personnel were at the crash scene.

The high school - including the main entrance that was briefly blocked off following the crash - will be open Wednesday, school officials said. However the front lawn where the crash occured likely will remain blocked off as police continue their investigation.

The accident led to the postponement of the Pittsfield-Lee boys basketball game on Tuesday night scheduled for the school's Moynihan Fieldhouse.

To reach Nathan Mayberg: nmayberg@berkshireeagle.com or (413) 496-6243. On Twitter: @natetoutseagleg To reach Dick Lindsay: rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 496-6233


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