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Police Report Faults Enfield Man in Fatal Woodstock Accident

Woodstock — An Enfield man is scheduled to appear in court next month to answer to a charge of negligent operation of a motor vehicle in a Route 4 head-on collision that killed a Bridgewater woman last month.

An investigation by the Woodstock Police Department and the Vermont State Police Crash Reconstruction Team determined that a box truck driven by Timothy Farewell, 46, drifted across the center line into 84-year-old Norma Sawyer’s Dodge Neon, police said in a news release yesterday.

Farewell, of Enfield Center, was issued a citation on Saturday to appear in Vermont District Court on July 30 at 8 a.m. He was reached by phone yesterday evening but declined to comment. A relative of Sawyer’s said the family did not wish to comment yesterday.

“Negligent Operation is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year incarceration or a $1,000 fine,” Chief Deputy State’s Attorney David Cahill said in an email yesterday. “There is no penalty enhancement when death or injury results from negligent driving. If the manner of driving were grossly negligent (reckless) the penalty would be enhanced when death or injury results.”

The collision, one in a string of fatal accidents on Route 4 this spring, occurred on May 16, just after 6 a.m. in Woodstock, between Westerdale Road and Iver Johnson Road. Sawyer’s eastbound sedan and Farewell’s westbound box truck, owned by Carroll Tire Co. of Lebanon, left Route 4 and came to rest on the bank of the Ottauquechee River, according to the release.

Sawyer was killed on impact and her passenger, Laura Robinson, 75, also of Bridgewater, survived but suffered major injuries in the crash, including fractured ribs, a fractured bone in her neck and a brain hematoma, Robinson said in an interview yesterday. Farewell sustained minor injuries.

Robinson said Sawyer was driving her to Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center for gall bladder surgery the morning of the accident when the women saw the approaching box truck cross the center line.

“I saw this truck just coming right at us,” Robinson said, recalling the morning’s events. “I said, ‘Oh my god, Norma. Can you get around it?’ I don’t remember anything after that.”

Robinson said she has been back on Route 4 multiple times since the accident to attend doctor appointments, but said “the first two times were pretty hairy.”

“I know I lost one great friend and I’m going to miss her the rest of my life,” Robinson said. “She was a sweetheart. Everybody just loved her to death, and she was always just right there to help you out.”

Robinson said she hopes the proper actions will be taken to make the road safer for travelers.

Four accidents have caused five fatalities on Route 4 since March. In early June, Gov. Peter Shumlin announced plans to install rumble strips between lanes and repave the road, as well as offered long term plans to redirect areas of the road away from the Ottauquechee River, which could take up to 10 years.

In the meantime, large signs encouraging motorists to drive slowly have been installed along the road.

Woodstock police officer Mark Donka, who is the contact officer for the case, declined to offer additional details about the investigation yesterday.

Whatever might have caused Farewell to drift into Sawyer’s lane, Cahill said, is information that will be found in the affidavit of probable cause once it is filed in court. He provided no further details on the case.

Katie Mettler can be reached at kmettler@vnews.com or 603-727-3234.

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