No charges will be filed in aftermath of pedestrian death in Laconia crosswalk

LACONIA — Police will not be pressing any criminal charges against a Belmont woman who stuck and killed a man in a wheel chair while he was crossing South Main Street in a designated crosswalk area last June.

The final police investigation that was reviewed by The Daily Sun said Claire Haynes struck John Guiffrida at 2:45 p.m. on June 7 as he was attempting to cross the street after shopping at Vista Foods. She was headed northbound and the weather was clear.

During their investigation, city police used the services of the Belknap Regional Accident Reconstruction Team — a group of police officers specially trained in motor vehicle crashed and their causes — for their investigation.

About 15 interviews with witnesses were completed and a video tape of the crash was obtained from a security camera owned by the nearby Meredith Village Savings Bank branch office

Police said Haynes stopped immediately after the crash and got out of her van. She stayed on the scene and cooperated with police — allowing herself to be taken to Lakes Region General Hospital where she voluntarily submitted to tests to determine in she had consumed anything that may have affected her ability to drive. She had not, said police.

After reviewing all of the information, local police determined that Guiffrida's death was tragic but Haynes role in it didn't rise to the level of criminal behavior.

"We would have to prove in a court of law that she was either reckless or negligent and there is not enough evidence for that," said Lt. Richard Simmons.

Simmons noted that Haynes was not speeding, was not distracted by a cellular phone or any other device and was not impaired by any drugs and alcohol.

Simmons added that since Guiffrida's death, the police have recommended frequent painting of the heavily used cross walk by the Department of Public Works and the addition of a "pedestrian crossing" sign that can be used when there is no snow on the ground — both of which were used last summer. He expects both will be used this summer as well.

Governor nominates Laconia man for high DOT job

CONCORD — Governor Maggie Hassan yesterday nominated William Cass of Laconia for the position of assistant commissioner of the Department of Transportation (DOT). He will succeed Jeff Brillhart, who will retire next month.

A graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Cass joined the DOT as a civil engineer in the Bureau of Highway Design in 1986. He worked for most of his first 15 years with the department and in 2001 became chief project manager in the project development division of the DOT. He was the project manager for the reconstruction of I-93 between Salem and Manchester. Since 2007 Cass has been director of project development, managing the eight bureaus within the division, which together employ 360 people, have an annual operating budget of $35-million and pursue an annual construction program with a value of more than $175 million.

Cass said yesterday that the assistant commissioner also carries the title "chief engineer," but he expected that with Patrick McKenna of Gilford serving as acting commissioner he would be representing the department in a variety of capacities.

Cass said that he moved to Laconia from Belmont about 15 years ago. He was a religious education teacher, Eucharistic Minister and Lector at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church in Lakeport and chairman of the board at Holy Trinity School from 1998 to 2003. He also coached a number of youth athletic teams in the city. And he served on the Master Plan Steering Committee from 2005 to 2007.

"Representative Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), a former director of public works in the city and a member of the House Public Works and Highways Committee, described Cass as "an excellent choice. He's been on the hot seat many times in the last three or four years," he continued, " and has always given good, informed, reasonable answers and been easy to deal with."

Cass said that he anticipates the Governor and Executive Council will vote on his nomination at their next regularly scheduled meeting on April 7.

One-act excellence: GHS & LHS both have plays at 'states'

LACONIA — The Laconia High School and Gilford High School theater departments will be traveling to Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston on Friday and Saturday to take part in the annual N.H. Education Theatre Guild One Act Festival. Twelve schools will be competing and two will be selected to advance to a New England-wide festival.

Gilford and Laconia took the stage for the regional level of the One Act Festival on March 14, in Gilford, where they presented their shows alongside five other schools from around the state. Each show was viewed by two professional adjudicators who gave constructive feedback to the cast directly following each show, and after deliberation four of the seven schools were selected to move on to perform at the state-level competition.

Laconia students were eager to attend the regional One Act Festival this year after a two year hiatus. Under the new theater director, Amanda Babcock, LHS presented the southern comedy "Dearly Departed". Originally written at full length by David Bottrell and Jessie Jones, the script was adapted by Babcock to fit a 40-minute time constraint.

"I had been wanting to do this show for a long time and finally this year I got the opportunity to," said Babcock. "They have taken a fantastic script and made it their own. I am very proud of every person in the cast."

The show follows a cast of colorful characters in a dysfunctional family as they come together to bury their patriarch, who had passed away due to a stroke. The show was recognized at the regional level by the adjudicators, with male actor Taylor Gagney, a junior, winning an Excellence in Acting award for his portrayal of the female character.

Gilford High School chose to perform the contemporary drama "Eurydice" by Sarah Ruhl. The director of the cast is Heather Hunt, a senior at GHS who is planning on attending college to study theater and the arts.

When asked why she picked the show, Hunt replied, "Because I wanted a challenge, and something that would startle people a little. There are a lot of traditional shows at this sort of theater festival, so I thought it would be an interesting change to have something sort of modern and original."

The show "Eurydice" follows the tragic love story of Eurydice and Orpheus as they face the challenges of untimely death while trying to preserve their love. The small and diverse cast of characters was recognized by the judges as well with three awards being presented at the end of the regional festival. Excellence in Acting awards went to Ryan Hall, who played Eurydice's father, and to Tom Pouliot playing the "Nasty Interesting Man/Child". Hunt won the award for Excellence in Directing.

This is the first time that Laconia High School has been chosen to move on to a state festival since the performance of "Night Mother" in 2009. Gilford is performing at the state level for the fourth consecutive year, following up last years achievement of making it New England theater festival with the performance of "Almost Maine" under the direction of Sarah Cook.

Upon being asked how Gilford felt about moving on to states with their neighboring town for the first time in years, Hunt said, "It's exciting to be going to states with Laconia, our neighbor city, for the first time in years. One of the great things about festival is how it builds connections in the student theater community."

Elks planning pot-luck fundraiser on Saturday for 'Mikey' Bird

GILFORD — The Laconia Lodge of Elks No. 876 is hosting a fundraising event on Saturday, March 28 to benefit former state president Michael "Mikey" Bird, who survived a sudden cardiac arrest he suffered while clearing snow on Thanksgiving Day. Friends, family and members of the local lodge will gather at 5 p.m. for a $5 potluck dinner, gift certificate bingo and a 50/50 raffle. All proceeds will be used to pay medical bills.

Prizes for the gift certificate bingo are being donated by Lakes Region businesses. Businesses who wish to donate are urged to call Elk member Robert Cunningham (or wife Diane) at 528-1248.

Cunningham said Bird remains an active Elks' member, though he suffers from stroke-like symptoms as a result of the extensive life-saving care he received last fall. A veteran of the Vietnam War, bird is also a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

The local Elks Lodge is located at 17 Sugarbush Lane in Gilford, just a few yards off Rte 11-A, between the Laconia Bypass and Gilford Village.