A driver with suicidal tendencies who swerved her car into a gasoline tanker on Route 101, causing it to overturn and spill more than 6,000 gallons of fuel, will spend at least the next 18 months behind bars.
Desiree Gulyban, 26, formerly of Hampton, pleaded guilty Monday to two felony counts of reckless conduct related to the crash on Dec. 16, 2019, in Epping that resulted in a massive cleanup effort.
Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Marguerite Wageling sentenced Gulyban to 1½ to four years in prison with an additional two- to four-year sentence suspended for 10 years. She will also lose her license for the next seven years and undergo treatment.
Gulyban, who suffered minor injuries, had told investigators that she was driving westbound in the left lane “unaware of her speed” when she intentionally swerved her 2003 Volvo to the right in an attempt to drive off the highway to “end it all,” a state police affidavit said.
She denied seeing the J.P. Noonan gasoline tanker, and told police that she had been feeling suicidal for a few days before the accident.
Deputy County Attorney Melissa Fales said Gulyban was talking on her cellphone with her then-boyfriend, who heard the crash.
The tanker was carrying approximately 11,000 gallons of gasoline when it was forced off the highway and 6,000 gallons leaked out into a wooded area.
The cleanup took several months and required the installation of wells to monitor groundwater in the area.
Jeffry Beaulieu of New Boston was driving the tanker and suffered multiple injuries when he was thrown out of of the vehicle and covered in gas. In a victim-impact statement to the court, Beaulieu acknowledged that he could have died and described the night of the crash as “the worst night of my life.”
“One part of that night that seems to play over and over, whether it be sleeping or just the hint of gas vapors at the gas station, is when I gained consciousness being waterboarded by gas pouring out of my trailer,” he wrote.
“Laying there blinded by the gas in my eyes, not able to get up, screaming for help to pull me out of the gas and get me away because all it would (have taken) is one little spark and I would not (have) been here today to write this victim-impact statement.”
Beaulieu said he suffered a broken femur, multiple broken ribs and vertebrae fractures, a skull fracture and chemical burns. He said he had to learn to walk again.
During her sentencing hearing, a tearful Gulyban apologized for causing the crash and the injuries that resulted.
“I don’t think there is ever going to be the proper words to express how sorry I am for my actions, but I want to do the right thing and take responsibility for the pain and suffering I have caused … I am very sorry,” she said, wiping her eyes with a tissue.
Defense attorney Richard Samdperil said Gulyban wanted to make the court aware that “this was not something intended to harm someone else.”
“This is an individual who was planning to harm herself, not anybody else. There is a significant mental health history and trauma history here, which I won’t discuss in detail. I think it was important to have a complete understanding of sort of the mindset that day and sort of what led to that day,” he said.
In a statement, Alicia Beaulieu spoke about how the accident and its aftermath have affected her husband and the entire family, including their son, who was 6 at the time.
“It has financially impacted us and will continue to do so because my husband worked hard to provide for our family and in a blink of an eye it was taken away from him,” she wrote. “This is something that is just not going to all of a sudden be back to how it was before. Yes, injuries heal, but the mental aspect of this will be with us for the rest of our lives.”
Fales said she was satisfied with the resolution of the case and while she acknowledged that Gulyban’s mental health issues played a role, she said there have been other incidents where mental health was a factor and those people received longer sentences.
“I’m very happy to avoid a trial for the victim. I think it would be good for this person to move on and I know that was a goal of his, to not have to go through trial,” she said.