New Hampshire

Series of Crashes Shuts Part of I-91 in Vermont; 1 Dead on Route 107

With the return of snow and ice, public safety and transportation officials were urging folks to adjust their driving for winter conditions

A series of crashes shut down a portion of Interstate 91 South in eastern Vermont for hours Tuesday morning after a quick burst of heavy, wet snow and poor visibility.

In Hartland, two crashed tractor-trailers and a third smashed vehicle combined to create one big headache.

I-91 South between exits 9 and 10 had to be shut down for more than three hours, leaving folks like Kathy Van Benschoten stuck in park.

"I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have this," she said from the passenger window of her car, referring to the knitting that was keeping her busy. "We also have two books in the car."

The driver of the first truck, from Florida, told necn & NBC10 Boston that someone in front of him abruptly changed lanes during a burst of heavy, wet snow, causing him to lose control and jackknife.

Then, Robb Demars, who was on his way to the DMV to register a just-purchased Subaru, tried to avoid the wreck — ending up in the median, he said.

"As I got out to check out the damage, the second trailer came around and smashed my car," Demars said. "[It] went from a cracked bumper to a totaled vehicle, but I'm okay."

The driver of the second truck added that it seemed like someone flipped a switch, changing the condition of the road surface.

"It was just wet on the other side of that corner," Glen Haines recalled. "You come around, and it was like glare ice — there was no stopping."

There were several other crashes in the area, as well, including one just a few miles up I-91 South in Hartland, also involving a tractor-trailer. That driver, who necn affiliate NBC 5 News reported suffered minor head injuries in the crash, was taken to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

That wreck also forced long traffic backups while the section of interstate was impassible.

Another crash Tuesday morning, in Stockbridge, turned fatal.

Philip Russell, 69, of Niantic, Connecticut, lost control of his sedan on Route 107, crossing the center line and crashing into a box truck driven by 37-year-old Joseph Van Patten of Clifton Park, New York, Vermont State Police said.

Russell was taken to Gifford Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, according to Vermont State Police.

That crash is still under investigation, police noted.

With the return of snow and ice, public safety and transportation officials were urging folks to adjust their driving for winter conditions.

"Leave yourself plenty of room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you, for reaction time," said Vermont State Police Cpl. Bryson Lunderville, adding that drivers should also keep their speeds down, consider snow tires and even stay home, if possible, during inclement weather.

Lunderville noted those common-sense steps could be a big help, since in Vermont, there are still months of chances for messy driving ahead.

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