Hartland Man Charged With Negligent Homicide in Wrong-Way I-89 Crash That Killed R.I. Woman, Injured Her Son

Hartland Man Charged With Negligent Homicide

  • Daniel Cowdrey, 38, of Hartland, Vt., second from left, waits to be transported from Lebanon District Court in Lebanon, N.H. by Grafton County Deputy Sheriff Peter Chierichetti, left, as attorney Paul Groce, second from right, and New Hampshire State Trooper Michael McLaughlin, right, leave the court after Cowdrey's arraignment for negligent homicide Thursday, May 26, 2016. Bail was set at $25,000 for Cowdrey, who is alleged to have killed a Rhode Island woman and severly injured her son in a drunk driving accident while driving the wrong direction on Interstate 89 in Lebanon, N.H. Wednesday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Ellynn Koelsch

Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, May 27, 2016

Lebanon — A 38-year-old Hartland man was being held in Grafton County jail Thursday evening after police said he drove drunk and in the wrong direction on Interstate 89 and slammed into an oncoming car, killing a Rhode Island woman and seriously injuring her 4-year-old son.

Daniel G. Cowdrey was arraigned earlier in the day in Lebanon Circuit Court on charges of aggravated driving while intoxicated and negligent homicide and ordered held on $25,000 cash or corporate surety bail. No plea was entered during the arraignment, and he said little in court, other than to give short answers to questions from Judge Edward Tenney and from a court clerk.

According to an affidavit by New Hampshire State Police Trooper Michael McLaughlin, Cowdrey drove a Subaru Legacy northbound on the southbound lanes of Interstate 89 shortly before 9 p.m. Wednesday, causing one accident with another car near Exit 19 in Lebanon and then colliding just south of Exit 20 with an oncoming Nissan Versa driven by Ellynn Koelsch, 34, of Cranston, R.I.

The vehicles “collided in a near head-on fashion,” according to a New Hampshire State Police news release, and Koelsch, a physical therapist known for her humanitarian work, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Cowdrey’s vehicle ended up facing northbound in the southbound travel side of the interstate, partly in the center median, while Koelsch’s car was partially in the right breakdown lane and shoulder of the interstate, facing the tree line, according to the affidavit.

Koelsch’s 4-year-old son, Anthony, was taken to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center with serious injuries, the news release said. McLaughlin on Thursday said the boy was in stable condition and expected to survive.

Cowdrey, whose left elbow was wrapped with a bandage and who walked with a limp in court, was also taken to DHMC. According to the police affidavit from McLaughlin, Cowdrey told Trooper Janell Smith he “had a few beers with some friends” at the Peking Tokyo restaurant in downtown Lebanon and then was headed home to Vermont.

Smith said she observed “very slurred speech, and glassy bloodshot eyes” from Cowdrey and that he “appeared to have an odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from his breath,” the affidavit said. She also said that as Cowdrey was being brought into the hospital he said, “I’m just a drunk buffoon,” according to the police affidavit.

Police drew blood samples from Cowdrey, though the blood alcohol results were not included in the affidavit.

Relatives of Cowdrey who were in court for his arraignment declined to comment. A message left for the owner or manager of Peking Tokyo was not returned Thursday.

Koelsch, who was killed three days before her 35th birthday, grew up in Ohio and was a physical therapist and certified hand therapist at a Performance Physical Therapy clinic in East Providence, R.I.

Michelle Collie, the owner and CEO of the 10-location company, said Koelsch had worked for Performance Physical Therapy for seven years.

“She did a huge amount for the community as well as for the patients she would see each day,” Collie said. “Obviously, there are a lot of very sad and grieving employees here.”

Collie said Koelsch had been the president of Run for Freedom, a group that seeks to raise awareness about human trafficking, and had also volunteered to help orphaned children with disabilities in Haiti.

“She touched a lot of lives, and she really was an incredibly kind, kind woman,” Collie said.

On her profile on the company’s website, Koelsch had said the Ohio State Buckeyes were her favorite sports team and that she enjoyed “doing ministry with her husband at Brown University,” spending time with her son and husband, and “experiencing new things/being adventurous.”

McLaughlin, the trooper, said he was not sure what had brought Koelsch to the Upper Valley, but thought it might have been part of a vacation with the long holiday weekend approaching.

Her husband, Adam, drove up from Rhode Island and was with their son Thursday at DHMC.

When rescued from the car, Koelsch’s son initially was sleepy, then sought comfort from a toy, McLaughlin said.

“The little boy was looking for a teddy bear that was in the back seat,” he said.

Cowdrey, who works for a property maintenance firm based in Lebanon, does not appear to have a prior criminal record in New Hampshire or Vermont, according to court records.

He is due back in court June 6 for a probable cause hearing.

John Gregg can be reached at 603-727-3217 or jgregg@vnews.com.