Man Accused In Fatal Crash Out on Bail

In 2001, Suspect Collided With Woman in Woodstock

  • Daniel Cowdrey, 38, of Hartland, Vt., left, listens as attorney Paul Groce, right, speaks for him during his arraignment in Lebanon District Court on a charge of negligent homicide Thursday, May 26, 2016. Cowdrey is alleged to have been driving drunk, traveling north in the southbound lane of Interstate 89 in Lebanon, N.H. when he hit a car driven by Ellynn Koelsch, of Cranston, R.I. Koelsch was killed in the crash and her young son was seriously injured. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, June 06, 2016

White River Junction — The Hartland man charged with killing a woman in a wrong-way crash while drunk driving on Interstate 89 in Lebanon last month was the at-fault driver in a similar collision in Woodstock in 2001, according to a document on file in Windsor County.

Traffic court records show Daniel Cowdrey crossed the center line on Route 4 in December 2001 and collided with an oncoming vehicle driven by an expectant mother who suffered several broken bones and a lacerated spleen.

Police issued Cowdrey a $170.50 traffic ticket for failing to keep right of the center line.

Cowdrey had a blood alcohol content of .046, the document says, a level below the legal limit for the driver of a passenger vehicle.

There were no criminal charges filed in the 2001 accident.

On Monday in Lebanon District Court, Cowdrey waived a probable cause hearing on charges of aggravated driving while intoxicated and negligent homicide in connection with the crash on I-89 two weeks ago.

His attorney requested that his current bail be continued, and Judge Edward Tenney approved his request.

Cowdrey, who was being held at the Grafton County jail, has since posted $25,000 bail and was released, according to his case summary.

Police allege Cowdrey, 38, drove drunk and in the wrong direction on I-89 on the evening of May 25 and slammed head-on into a car driven by a Rhode Island woman who was traveling with her 4-year-old son.

Ellynn Koelsch, 34, of Cranston, R.I., was pronounced dead at the scene, while her son, Anthony, was transported to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center with serious injuries.

According to an affidavit filed in the case, Cowdrey told a state trooper he “had a few beers” at a restaurant in downtown Lebanon and was headed home at the time of the accident. He reportedly told officials on the way to the hospital, “I’m just a drunk buffoon.”

Cowdrey hasn’t entered a plea to the felony-level charges. Details of his next court appearance have not been released.

A message left for his attorney wasn’t immediately returned.

According to a Dec. 30, 2001, article published in the Valley News, Cowdrey collided head-on with Jill Renninger and her husband, Todd, on a night when Route 4 was slippery in spots from snow flurries.

Jill Renninger and Cowdrey had to be extricated from their respective vehicles by rescue personnel before being flown via helicopter to DHMC with serious injuries.

In a telephone interview on Monday, Renninger said she and her husband were on their way home to Woodstock from a funeral out-of-state at the time of the accident.

“The last thing I remember seeing was headlights coming into my lane,” Renninger, now 37, said. “Then I remember waking up in the hospital.”

About a week ago, Renninger said, she heard Daniel Cowdrey’s name come over the radio in connection with the I-89 crash.

She said she felt a wave of emotion come over her.

“(The) disappointment and sadness was overwhelming,” Renninger said. “I felt grace knowing that God had preserved my life and the unborn child inside me, but that after 14 years, he was still unsafe on the roads.”

Renninger was hospitalized for about two weeks with a broken jaw, broken ribs, broken knee, lacerated spleen and other injuries. She was three months pregnant at the time of the accident. The couple’s son is now 13. Neither Renninger nor her son has significant lasting injuries from the accident, she said.

Renninger said she sees several similarities between the two accidents, including that her family and the Koelsches have strong Christian faith.

Renninger and her husband have been active at White River Junction’s Valley Bible Church for about 15 years.

“Our church family has given us a lot of support,” she said.

Koelsch, who worked as a physical therapist, was an active member in Chi Alpha ministry at Brown University.

She and her husband, Adam, were planning on moving with their ministry to the University of Vermont, according to a post on the Facebook page of West Bay Christian Academy, where the Koelsches’ son attends preschool.

According to the post, Koelsch and the boy had been in Vermont visiting a potential preschool prior to the crash.

The school’s post said Anthony suffered a broken leg and other injuries. An update on his condition was not available.

Attempts to reach Adam Koelsch on Monday were unsuccessful.

The Renaissance Church in Providence, R.I., has planned a vigil at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night to celebrate Ellynn Koelsch’s life, according to the church’s website.

The pastor has set up a YouCaring memorial fund page, and to date, nearly 400 people have donated more than $46,000.

Renninger, who now lives in White River Junction, said she doesn’t wish ill will on Cowdrey and hopes that he “doesn’t rot in jail.”

“I pray that he has finally learned a lesson,” she said, “and my hope is that he gets the help he needs.”

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