Cemetery vandalism - Historic headstones at Belmont burial site broken

BELMONT — Police are asking for the public's help in identifying the person or people who knocked over five headstones at the Highland Cemetery on Church Street.

Chief Mark Lewandoski said police got a report from a cemetery trustee Sunday morning and believe the damage was done sometime Saturday night or early Sunday morning.

Trustee Sharon Ciampi said Monday that two of the stones were pushed over and three more were pushed over and broken.

She said one appears to be from 1820 and was very thin. She said she would have to contact the state to see how to identify who was buried there and rely on them for guidance. Ciampi said the writing was very worn and there was an epithet on it and there is no way to fix it.

She said another broken stone had been broken before and cracked in the same place. One of the markers that appears to have been kicked over was for an infant.

Anyone who has any information is asked to call the Belmont Police at 267-8350.

– Gail Ober

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This is one of several headstones pushed over or broken at Highland Cemetery in Belmont over the weekend. (Courtesy photo)

Gilford's Top 10 ready for the challenge of college (450)


GILFORD — Since their sophomore year, this group of students has been holding down the top 10 positions in their class.

And because of that, they said on Friday, they know each other really well and, as the time for graduation nears, they are all feeling a little bittersweet about their years together.

"We have a great sense of community and friends," said Pat McKenna, who plans on studying political science and policy making, no matter how boring his friends jokingly tell him that is, while they acknowledge he is "really good at it."

For Rebecca Cook, going to a smaller school like Gilford High has allowed her to build lasting relationships.

Yet each of the 10 is off to a different college and each member of the class who has chosen a possible field of study will study something unique from the others.

Jordan Dean wants to study bio-chemistry and go into pharmaceutical research. She was recruited by St. Michael's College for her volleyball skills as well.

Sarah Lachapelle wants to be a physician's assistant and hopes get a walk-on spot on the softball team at the University of New England.

Christian Ayer will study journalism and theater at Brigham Young University, while Rebecca Cook will study civil engineering at Lafayette College.

Mitchell Mattice, who holds dual citizenship with Canada, will study computer engineering at Western University of Ontario and will be the third member of his family to study there.

Samih Shafique said he wants to follow in his father's footsteps and study pre-medicine at Boston University and then go on to medical school.

Mariah Nelson, who will attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Albany, said she's not exactly sure what her course of study will be but is strongly leaning toward biology, while Karina Thomlinson and Sienna "Sisi" Remick said they have "no idea" what their majors will be but were confident they will know by the end of their first college year.

Collectively, they said they would miss Homecoming and Winter Carnival because those times are when they can all be together and get to meet some of the other students who aren't in their classes.

Sisi Remick is the class valedictorian and Rebecca Cook is the class salutatorian. Pat McKenna and Remick are the co-presidents of the student council.

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These are the Gilford High School Top 10 students, from left: Pat McKenna, Gettysburg College; Jordan Dean, Lafayette College; Sarah Lachapelle, University of New England; Rebecca Cook, Christian Ayer, Brigham Young University; Mitchell Mattice, University of Western Ontario; Samih Shafique, Boston University; Mariah Nelson, Rensselaer Polytechnic; Karina Tomlinson, Endicott College; Sienna "Sisi" Remick, Boston College. (Laconia Daily Sun Photo – Gail Ober)


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Mock crash shows dangers of drunk, distracted driving


BELMONT — When a Dodge Neon crashes into a Jeep Grand Cherokee, it's never a good thing.

But when this accident was staged by the police and fire departments yesterday as part of their Students Against Dangerous Decisions demonstration, the entire Shaker school body was able to appreciate the real-enough consequences of drinking and driving and driving while distracted.

"The full idea is to understand that as a young adult, when you make a decision, it can last your whole life," said English teacher Scott Hess, who is the teacher adviser to SADD.

Police Chief Mark Lewandoski and Fire Department Deputy Chief Sean McCarty set up the demonstration with cars donated by David Rogers of Belmont Auto Salvage. Three students, Kasey DiDonato, Elizabeth Nix and Jerica McCaulley, played the injured, complete with blood and crying.

Students watched as it took them 40 minutes to extract one victim from the Cherokee by removing the roof of the car and getting her on to a board for transport to the hospital.

The incident, so called because Lewandoski told them this was no accident, was played out in real time that include hearing the calls over the radio, waiting for police and fire to respond, and watching as a police officer, police are typically the first to arrive, assess each victim as best as he could.

As head of the Belknap Regional Accident Investigation Team, Lewandoski said Belmont alone sees an average of 275 car crashes a year with about 1/3 of them being serious enough to require extrication by fire and emergency responders.

"The driver (of the Neon) lost control because she had been drinking and we saw that her cell phone had just been used," he said. "That turned it into a crime scene."

"In real life, we would have locked her down for hours," he said, adding police would take up to 500 pictures, interview anyone they could find, search the car for more evidence and measure skid marks, noting where every piece of the car was found.

"It's physics," he said, telling the students that at any given time, there are four spots of rubber, each about 4 inches by 4 inches, where the car touches the road. "Once that 4,000 pounds of car starts going in the wrong direction, there's not much anyone can do about it."

Lewandoski told the student that the in the best-case scenario, the Neon driver would be facing two counts of second-degree assault. In the worst case, she could be facing two counts of negligent homicide.

After he explained that the law says anyone who is impaired by any drug, whether its alcohol, prescription medicine or an over-the-counter drug like NyQuil or some other cold medicine is guilty of impaired driving.

"If it says on the bottle that it 'may cause drowsiness,' then you can be charged," he said.

"There's usually a lot more screaming, a lot more yelling and a lot more people telling us how to do our jobs," said Fire Lt. Ryan Brown, who told them that in real life the time it takes to get a seriously injured person from a wrecked car represents the longest 40 minutes either they or their parents will ever have.

He said there were nine firefighters in yesterday's mock simulation. In reality, he said only three work during the day and two work at night. In a serious crash, it can take much longer to get enough firefighters to respond either from on-call staff or neighboring communities.

Students had a number of questions, some of which were related to driving age, and some of which were geared toward inattention and the effects of prescribed drugs like anxiety medication.

Hess said he would like to give special thanks to the Impact Teen Drivers organization that provided the T-shirts and picked up most of the bill for them as well as all the agencies who helped with the demonstration.

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A Shaker student posing as an injured victim of a drunk driving crash is removed from a Jeep Cherokee after crews worked 40 minutes to remove her from the car. (Laconia Daily Sun Photo – Gail Ober)

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Students look on as Belmont firefighters start using an extrication device to remove an injured driver from the mock crash. Students played victims in the demonstration. (Laconia Daily Sun Photo/Gail Ober)

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Each student was given a T-shirt from Impact Teen Drivers that shows the most likely cause of death for a teenager by color with white, or car crashed, being the primary cause of death for teens. (Laconia Daily Sun Photo – Gail Ober)