Two 71-year-old women were killed in a fiery crash Wednesday on Interstate 95 North in Old Lyme, a stretch of highway that first responders said is prone to backups and accidents.
"Truckers that we see out on the road say, 'Oh we know that stretch of road. That’s terrible. We avoid it at all costs'," said Old Lyme Fire Chief Tom Risom.
According to data from the Connecticut Crash Data Repository, on I-95 between exits 70 to 74, there were 276 crashes with three fatalities in 2015, 303 crashes with four fatalities in 2016 and 224 crashes with one fatality through Oct. 1, 2017.
The data shows a vast majority of the crashes occurred in clear weather conditions during daylight hours.
Driving under the influence, speeding and distraction are not cited as contributing factors to a large percentage of those crashes.
Risom said he’s seen the number of crashes go up since the casinos were built.
"I would say our highway calls were less than 25 percent of our call volume and now they’re over half," he said.
The department has three engines specially equipped to deal with vehicle extraction and stabilization on the highway.
"It’s often related to something else. (Wednesday) they had a lane closed for tree trimming," Risom said.
"Following too close. Because that doesn’t give you enough time to stop and miss that accident," Sgt. Michael Macek, of the East Lyme Police Department, said about what he sees drivers do on the stretch of I-95 from exits 70 to 75.
He said when that stretch of highway is closed, it causes backups in town. like it did on Wednesday after the fatal accident.
"Flanders Four Corners, down into route one and of course down here in front of the police department on 156," Macek said.
Kevin Nursick, a spokesperson for the Connecticut Department of Transportation, had this statement about that stretch of I-95:
“It is disturbing that this appears to be a typical and far too common case of driver error with tragic results. Exactly what is it going to take to get people to focus on driving safely and responsibly? I think this is a question the public should be asking itself every day because the biggest component of the safety equation relies on the person behind the wheel. Every facet of safe infrastructure is predicated first and foremost on drivers being attentive and responsible - this is a fundamental and necessary foundation that cannot be understated.”