Bethel woman killed in crash at Route 12 bridge construction site 

  • Jenna Townsend with her friend Dylan Smith in an undated photograph. (Courtesy Dylan Smith)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/10/2020 8:43:51 AM
Modified: 6/10/2020 9:31:11 PM

BETHEL — At 24, Jenna Townsend had already lived in North Carolina and Boston. But, as friends will attest, Townsend’s real home has always been on a farm in Vermont.

“She could flip from a cocktail dress to boots and Carhartts and a John Deere tractor,” longtime friend Dylan Smith said Wednesday, remembering how, just a week earlier, Townsend had delivered a baby calf in the middle of the night.

“She was just a real, tough chick. She was country strong,” Smith said.

His words were echoed by many friends who spoke Wednesday, remembering Townsend as a tough farmer, a “bright light” and a caring friend.

The Bethel native died Tuesday after her car crashed into the abutment of a bridge on Route 12 that is under construction.

Shortly before the fatal crash, Townsend was driving a Subaru Impreza on Route 12 when she was involved in a minor crash near the Bethel Drive-in, Vermont State Police said in a news release.

She kept driving north, traveled off the west side of the roadway and through the construction site for the bridge over Gilead Brook, hitting several items. She then collided with the southern abutment of the new bridge, the release said.

Police said speed appears to have been a factor in the crash, which occurred at 5:39 p.m., and that they don’t have reason to believe drugs or alcohol were involved.

For Townsend’s friends, the crash is a devastating end to a life the 2013 Whitcomb High School graduate had lived to its fullest.

Townsend, who worked on her father, Jeffrey Townsend’s farm, could often be seen driving a tractor on Route 12, said traffic flagger Dwight Harris, who remembered her as a “very friendly” woman who was always waving to people.

“If she wasn’t working at the farm doing what she loved the most: listening to Lil Wayne with the cows ... then she was probably swimming or tubing down by the river,” friend Romundo Washington, of South Royalton, said in a message Wednesday. “No matter what it was she was there having the time of her life.”

That joy transferred over to Townsend’s friendships as well. A friend of Townsend for three years, Sydney West remembers her “infectious smile and contagious laugh” the most. West said that when she was pregnant, her friend would rub her belly and shoulders and tell jokes to make her laugh.

“She was an amazing woman,” West said.

Smith, who lives in Virginia but grew up near Townsend in the Upper Valley, called his childhood friend a “bright light” who brought the good out in everyone.

“She was just one of those people who brought life to your life,” he said.

But Townsend had been through her share of struggles as well; In 2006, her then-16-year-old sister Ashley Townsend died in a car crash off Route 12A in Roxbury, Vt.

In a Facebook post in May, Townsend announced that she was six months sober, writing “I can finally say I’m proud of the woman I’ve become. I went from a girl with a messy past and getting myself into situations to a young woman building a better future for herself.”

Friends echoed that sentiment Wednesday, saying that Townsend was excited about the future.

“She was a fighter,” Smith said, remembering how just a few months ago the two talked about Townsend’s plans, and how excited she was to take over her father’s farm someday. “I felt like she was really hitting her stride ... She was so happy. You could just see it.”

The crash remains under investigation, and anyone with information is asked to call State Police at 802-234-9933.

Anna Merriman can be reached at or 603-727-3216.

Sign up for our free email updates
Valley News Daily Headlines
Valley News Contests and Promotions
Valley News Extra Time
Valley News Breaking News

Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784


© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy