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One dead, two injured in crash


Southbridge High student was Upward Bound scholar



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Three people were injured one fatally in a Tuesday morning crash involving this car and a pickup truck at the intersection of South and Sayles streets. Kevin Flanders. (click for larger version)
December 07, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE A teen-aged girl is dead and two others reported injured following an accident near Harrington Memorial Hospital during the morning commute, Tuesday, Dec. 7.

No information was available at press time from police regarding the identities of the three victims, but School Committee member Scott Lazo confirmed Makayla Packard, a 10th-grader at Southbridge High School, was killed in the accident.

"In a small community, everybody knows everybody," Lazo said. "I don't know what to say except it's another grieving moment."

He said he knew Packard from her years as a Pop Warner cheerleader, but also has children in the schools who know her. He did not know the injured parties' names or whether they were students.

The crash victims were airlifted to UMass Memorial Medical Trauma Center in Worcester after the accident, which occurred at about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at the corner of South and Sayles streets outside the Hospital Spa.

Both LifeFlight, and Life Star medical helicopters were called to Harrington by request of Southbridge Fire Department, according to Harrington spokesman Thomas Nutile. LifeFlight operates out of UMass Memorial and Life Star operates out of Hartford, Conn. Both helicopters transported the two seriously injured patients to UMass, where Packard was later pronounced dead.

A gray Chrysler and a large pick-up truck had collided near the Sayles Street intersection with the Chrysler pushed onto the lawn next to the Spa. According to Hospital Spa owner Arthur Martin, the car hit a small portion of the house after the vehicles collided. The passenger side of the Chrysler was heavily damaged as the car came to rest between a porch on the building and a National Grid gas regulator installation.

Police Chief Daniel Charette said the two injured teens were siblings and students, but he could not immediately recall their names. The brother had "very minor" injuries, and a fourth person, the driver, was shaken up but unhurt, he added.

The sister was seriously hurt, Charette said. She is reported to be in critical condition at UMass with a fractured spine and concussion, but is speaking and expected to recover, according to another source who knows the victims.

Charette said his department is investigating a combination of driver error and mechanical failure as cause of the accident.

"[The driver] claimed that his brakes failed and he was trying to go quickly through the intersection not to get hit," Charette said, noting state and local accident reconstruction officers examined the scene. The car itself will also face "a full inspection," he added.

"There was barely any damage to the truck," explained Martin, who lives above the store at 151 South St. "The truck had a large brush guard on the front of it, which is probably why it didn't get much damage."

Martin said the truck was kept at the scene for about four hours before it was allowed to take off.

"I'm pretty sure the truck driver wasn't injured," he said. "I was upstairs when the crash happened and I came downstairs immediately."

The only damage visible to the house was to the downspout and minimal damage to the siding.

Makayla Packard was an Upward Bound Scholar who recently won an award in psychology through the program.

Lazo said the school administration spent much of the day addressing the accident, calling in adjustment counselors "and all types of services for the kids." Going forward, the district typically keeps an eye on the students, especially those who were closest to Packard, offering counseling and otherwise "help[ing] the kids get through the funeral and the wake," he added.

Staff writers Christopher Tanguay, Kevin Flanders ,Tracy F. Seelye and Ann Tremblay contributed to this report. Adam T. Silva can be reached at 508-909-4050 or by email at asilva@stonebridgepress.com. Gus Steeves may be reached at 508-909-4135 or by email at gsteeves@stonebridgepress.com.

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