EPPING — A newly retired Massachusetts police sergeant and his wife were killed in a crash late Thursday night when a Derry man driving west on Route 101 near Exit 7 suddenly made a U-turn on the highway and began heading eastbound, state police said.
Sgt. John Johnson, 58, a veteran officer with the Townsend, Mass., Police Department, and his wife, Heidi, 57, both of New Ipswich, died at the scene of the crash that involved three vehicles and occurred minutes after New Hampshire State Police received a call about a wrong-way driver at approximately 11:40 p.m.
When asked if drugs or alcohol may have been involved, State Police Lt. John Hennessey said, “Impairment appears to be a factor, but all evidence will be examined.”
The deaths stunned Johnson’s colleagues on the Townsend police force.
“There’s a deep sense of anger to have such a tragedy befall a guy like that. It’s senseless,” said Townsend Deputy Police Chief James Sartell, a former Hollis police chief.
According to state police, a 1998 Dodge 1500 pickup truck driven by Ryan Kittredge, 31, of Derry, made a U-turn, and while traveling east in the westbound lane, struck the Johnsons’ 2008 Chevrolet Impala. John Johnson was driving the Impala and his wife was the passenger.
State police said Johnson, who was westbound in the right-hand lane, was unable to avoid the crash.
A 2015 Ford Fusion driven by Andrew Neeper, 23, of Raymond, collided with the truck, as Neeper was unable to see the two vehicles blocking the highway in the darkness after the crash, state police said.
Kittredge, who suffered serious injuries, was taken to Exeter Hospital and later flown by medical helicopter to Massachusetts General Hospital. His condition wasn’t known Friday.
Neeper also was brought to Exeter Hospital with non-life threatening injuries, police said.
According to court records, Kittredge was found guilty of driving under the influence in Conway in 2014. His license was suspended for 18 months and he had to pay a fine and participate in an impaired driver care management program.
Records also show he was convicted of drug possession in Derry in 2005 and disorderly conduct in Hampton in 2008.
The highway was reopened shortly before 5 a.m.
State police are asking anyone with information related to the crash to call Trooper Daniel Quartulli at 223-8993 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.