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Perkinsville Woman Killed in Head-On Crash After Truck Crosses I-91 Median in Hartland

  • Vermont State Police closed Interstate 91 northbound in Hartland, Vt., for over four hours to investigate a fatal traffic accident, Thursday, June 28, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Darin Bacon, of the Vermont Agency of Transportation, gives directions to a driver while diverting traffic away from a fatal car accident at exit 9 on Interstate 91 in Hartland, Vt., Thursday, June 28, 2018. Vermont State Police closed both northbound lanes of the highway for over four hours, diverting traffic onto Route 5. Eric Januszewski, right of VAOT, is at right. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Vermont State Police closed Interstate 91 northbound in Hartland, Vt., for over four hours to investigate a fatal traffic accident, Thursday, June 28, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Vermont State Police at the scene of a fatal car crash on Interstate 91 northbound in Hartland, Vt., on Thursday, June 28, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Laura McNaughton Photo-Nancy Nutile-McMenemy



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, June 28, 2018

Hartland — A 36-year-old Perkinsville woman died on Thursday morning when a Charlestown man lost control of his southbound pickup truck on Interstate 91, crossing the median and striking her northbound vehicle head-on.

Laura Cody McNaughton was pronounced dead at the scene following the crash, which occurred at about 7:30 a.m. near the Hartland exit.

Joshua Rondeau, 37, and two passengers, ages 8 and 11, in his 2008 Chevy truck were transported to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries, police said in a news release on Thursday afternoon.

McNaughton, who worked for the Vermont Department of Health and who was a member of the Weathersfield School Board, was driving a 2007 Toyota Matrix. Both vehicles were totaled.

McNaughton’s 8-year-old son, who was in the car at the time, also was transported to Dartmouth-Hitchcock with non-life-threatening injuries, according to the release.

The Vermont State Police Crash Reconstruction Team is investigating. Among the questions yet to be answered is why Rondeau lost control of his vehicle, Vermont State Police Lt. Roger Farmer said.

McNaughton, a Springfield (Vt.) High School graduate, ran as a write-in candidate for the School Board in 2017, and was elected to a three-year term, according to Town Clerk Flo-Ann Dango.

Her husband, Ethan McNaughton, is a member of the Zoning Board, the clerk said.

Weathersfield School Board Chairman Sean Whalen said McNaughton championed policy initiatives during her stint on the board.

Not only did she create and write a wellness policy for the school, using her experience at the Department of Health as the backbone, but she was in the middle of drafting a social media policy.

“Laura’s life really intersected across our community,” said Whalen, noting the tight-knit town is in shock. “She and her family are well loved within the community. We are all rallying around them.”

Although she only recently met McNaughton, fellow board member Heidi Remick, who is an assistant Windsor County state’s attorney, said McNaughton left a lasting impact on everyone she came in contact with.

“I am very impressed by all that I did know of her,” Remick said, breaking down. “It is just heartbreaking.”

Remick described McNaughton as energetic, caring and community oriented.

At difficult times like these, Whalen said, it makes one remember how much “we count on each other.”

“This is the kind of thing that reminds us of that,” Whalen said. “We don’t expect people to leave us, especially a young mom like Laura. Today, we remember how much we love each other.”

A person who answered the phone at one of McNaughton’s family members’ homes declined to speak with a reporter.

Traffic was diverted to Route 5 at Exit 9, the Hartland exit, for several hours on Thursday morning due to the crash. The roadway was reopened at about 1:10 p.m., police said.

In an email shortly after 8 a.m., police urged motorists to drive slowly because of weather-related hazards.

“Rainy conditions are causing water to pool on the roadways in many areas, leading to an increased risk of hydroplaning,” police said. “The rain also reduces visibility. Troopers are responding to a number of incidents and crashes on the interstates and other roads, and in many cases the wet weather is a contributing cause.

“Motorists are reminded to slow down in adverse conditions, increase following distance between cars and have your lights on to improve visibility. ... Please buckle up and drive safely.”

Top officials at the Department of Health have reached out to share their grief and offer support to employees, in light of McNaughton’s passing, according to Rebecca Kelley, spokesman for Governor Phil Scott.

A community gathering with grief counselors will be held at the Weathersfield School Friday morning.

Also on Thursday, several people were injured in a two-car crash on I-91 in Norwich.

Mark Bishop, of Fairlee, was driving south when he swerved to avoid a slow or stopped vehicle, according to a Vermont State Police news release.

Police said Bishop lost control of his vehicle, traveled across the center median and collided with Richard Manivanh’s vehicle.

Manivanh, of Fairlee, and his two passengers — Chaya Patel, of Hanover, and Brian North, of Lebanon — had to be extricated from the vehicle, according to the release.

The crash remains under investigation.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.