KEENE — A fiery collision Friday between a Hyundai and a tractor-trailer fully loaded with petroleum products killed a Hinsdale man and woman.
The preliminary investigation suggests the 2011 Hyundai, driven by Douglas Farr Jr., 32, crossed the center line into the path of a northbound JP Noonan Transportation tractor-trailer unit driven by Jeffrey J. Cloran, 54, of Becket, Mass., police said in a statement released Friday afternoon. Farr and his passenger Erin Breault, 35, were killed in the crash and resulting three-alarm fire that drew nearly 100 firefighters to the scene, according to authorities.
Cloran was treated and released from Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, police said.
The crash happened at approximately 10:30 a.m. Friday. The tractor-trailer was fully loaded with approximately 5,000 gallons of petroleum products, police said. After impact the tractor-trailer caught fire, rupturing one of the trailer fuel cells.
"It took approximately one hour for members of the Keene Fire Department, with the assistance of multiple other jurisdictions, to control and render the scene safe to approach," police said. The fire also damaged power lines running over the highway, which further complicated the removal of the tractor-trailer, they added.
As of 5 p.m. police said efforts to remove the rig safely were ongoing. Members of the public were being urged to seek alternate routes to avoid Route 9/10/12 north of West Street to Maple Ave and Route 9 west of Washington Street.
The scene was considered volatile because of the remaining petroleum on the scene and was to remain closed till the tractor trailer can be safely removed, according to Keene firefighter Ryan Lavigne.
"It's gasoline," Lavigne said. "Everyone up there is in full protective clothing."
Around 1 p.m., after fighting the fire on scene for several hours, he was stationed at a water tanker parked on West Street near the Route 12 on-ramp as water continued to be pumped to a Brattleboro, Vermont, water tanker on the on-ramp that pumped the water a half-mile to the scene of the crash just before the Route 9 off-ramp.
He estimated 75 to 100 firefighters from Keene and the surrounding area responded to the three-alarm fire caused by the crash.
William Deyo, commander of the volunteer group Keene Area Radio Emergency Squad, was also on West Street assisting with traffic. He and his squad of about six volunteers worked at different locations around the city to assist with traffic.
"We try to take over for (police) so they can go back out on patrol," he said. "Usually I don't call them [KARES volunteers] out of work. This sounded like a big one."
State police troopers, Cheshire County Sheriff's deputies, city parking meter officers and courthouse bailiffs were also assisting with traffic in the city Friday.
"It's been a while since we've had something this big," Deyo said.
The cause of the crash was still under investigation on Friday night. Keene police are asking people with information about the crash to call police at (603) 357-9813.
Information concerning this incident may also be provided anonymously via email at http://www.ci.keene.nh.us/departments/police/anonymous-crime-tips.