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Photo: Joanna Richards
Photo: Joanna Richards

Six die in crash with tractor-trailer in Antwerp

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UPDATE: The Watertown Daily Times reports James A. Mills Jr., the truck driver who caused the crash, was released without charges Thursday night while state police continue their investigation.

Six people died yesterday in a crash with a tractor-trailer on Route 11 in the town of Antwerp, in Jefferson County. The accident happened shortly after 9 a.m. near Fox Ranch Road and Dickson Road just south of the St. Lawrence county line. Vehicles were slowing down for a paving project, and a tractor-trailer in the southbound lane failed to slow down as it approached the work zone, slamming into several other vehicles and causing a chain reaction crash involving six vehicles.

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State Police spokesman Jack Keller was at the scene yesterday afternoon and described what happened when the first vehicle, a 2007 Subaru Forester, was hit. He said, “That vehicle spins and lands on the west side of the shoulder, upside down. We have a woman who was, a female driver there, and unfortunately just around 12:30 this afternoon she passed away at E.J. Noble Hospital in Gouverneur.”

The woman was later identified as 59 year-old Maryann Gregory from Dickinson Center. Keller continued his reconstruction of the scene, “After it strikes that vehicle, it also strikes a 2012 Rav 4 Toyota with five individuals in it. It appears that after it was struck, it burst into flames immediately.”

All five people in that vehicle were killed. They were: driver Laurie Dana, 42, from Lawrence, in St. Lawrence County, and her four passengers, including her daughters, Caitlyn Dana, 14, and Lauryn Dana, 11; her mother-in-law, Janet Dana, 69; and Shannon Planty, 14. Laurie Dana worked as a speech pathologist at Brasher Falls Central School District, and her daughters were students at the school, according to a press release from the district.

The tractor-trailer also struck a state Department of Transportation pickup truck. Keller said Lewis Lottie Jr., from Nicholville, was driving the truck to Watertown for a meeting. Keller said, “And luckily for him – and we're still trying to determine how he got out – he was removed from that vehicle. After he was removed, that vehicle burst into, exploded into flames.”

Lottie suffered head and chest trauma and was flown by helicopter to Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, where he was listed in critical condition yesterday. Two other vehicles were damaged in the crash, but their passengers were unharmed.

The tractor-trailer's driver was 45 year-old James Mills Jr., from Myerstown, Pennsylvania. Keller said he had picked up a load of yogurt in Lawrence, in St. Lawrence County, yesterday morning. He was taken to Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown for observation but was uninjured. Keller said he would have to take a drug and alcohol test, a legal requirement for drivers involved in fatal accidents. The district attorney was on the scene of the crash yesterday afternoon and would make the decision whether to file criminal charges.

After the crash, a section of Route 11 north of the village of Antwerp was closed for most of the day yesterday. In the afternoon, an accident reconstruction team was trying to determine the speed of the tractor-trailer and other specifics of the accident.

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