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Two troopers injured at single accident scene on snowy I-95

By JASON SCHREIBER
Union Leader Correspondent

March 21. 2016 8:20PM
A state police cruiser was damaged when it was rear-ended in a crash on Interstate 95 in Portsmouth Monday morning. (NH State Police)

PORTSMOUTH — It happened again.

Two state troopers were sent to the hospital after they were struck by other vehicles while at the scene of an accident on Interstate 95 in Portsmouth during a quick-hitting spring snowstorm Monday morning.

It’s a scene that’s become all too familiar on highways around the state.

“I’m not sure what we can do to message people to slow down when they approach emergency vehicles in inclement weather. We’ve had press conferences. We had 20-something (cruisers) struck last year. I’m at a loss at this point,” said State Police Lt. Chris Vetter, commander of Troop A in Epping.

Vetter said the first trooper was hit after he had responded to an accident involving a vehicle that struck a guardrail on I-95 south near Exit 7.

Trooper Scott Garton was finishing up his accident investigation just before 8 a.m., when he spotted a second vehicle; it veered out of control and headed toward him as he stood outside his cruiser, Vetter said.

An investigation showed the driver, Kathleen Shippy, 64, of Kittery, Maine, was traveling south and approaching the accident scene when she lost control and slid into the breakdown lane.

Garton saw the vehicle sliding toward him and attempted to avoid being struck, but the passenger’s side of Shippy’s vehicle hit him. He ended up pinned between the vehicle and his cruiser, police said.

Shippy wasn’t traveling at a high rate of speed, police said.

Garton complained of minor injuries to his hips and legs and was transported to Portsmouth Regional Hospital; he was treated and released.

After Garton was struck, State Police Sgt. Steven Cooper responded to the scene to investigate. He was still inside his cruiser, parked in the breakdown lane, when his car was rear-ended by another vehicle.

Police said Toby MacGrath, 46, of Bowdoinham, Maine, was driving south on I-95 and lost control as he neared the original accident scene.

Cooper complained of back injuries and was also treated at the hospital and released.

All of the vehicles involved were damaged, but were driven from the scene.

“We’re lucky (the troopers) weren’t injured more seriously than they were,” Vetter said.

Shippy was charged with a violation-level offense of negligent driving. MacGrath was charged with following too closely, also a violation.

The incidents were among dozens of crashes and spinouts on New Hampshire roadways Monday morning.

It also came less than a week after a Massachusetts state trooper was struck and killed during a traffic stop.

Trooper Thomas Clardy, 44, was parked on the side of the Mass Pike in Charlton, Mass., during a traffic stop on March 16, when he was struck by another vehicle.

“This is not all that different from that,” Vetter said. “The troopers were in the breakdown lane dealing with motorists. In that case it was a motor vehicle stop.”

jschreiber@newstote.com


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