Over-loaded minivan only tip of dangerous driving iceberg

06 30 overloaded car

Thomas McNeil, 57, of Belmont was ticketed for driving this minivan with the contents of his condo stacked on top. (Courtesy NH State Police)

Belmont man was at the wheel of the vehicle


BELMONT — While social media users have been bemused by photos from the New Hampshire State Police of a Belmont resident driving a minivan with enough housewares to furnish a two-bedroom condo strapped to its roof, Belmont Police Lt. Richard Mann said his department sees – and writes tickets for – dangerous driving on a daily basis.
A press release from State Police reported that the now-notorious minivan was stopped in Londonderry in the northbound lane of Route 93 at 6:37 a.m. on Wednesday. The driver, Thomas McNeil, 57, was cited for negligent driving and driving an uninspected vehicle. Photos of the vehicle show a pile of items taller than the vehicle itself strapped to the roof and rear, including furniture, lamps, rakes, shovels and boxes, secured with a web of rope and electrical cords.
“The 2003 Honda Odyssey was stopped in order to prevent a potential traffic crash due to the many items attached to the outside of the vehicle,” State Police reported. As the state trooper escorted the tow truck and minivan off of the highway, one of the items fell into the roadway.
Images of the vehicle sparked derisive comments by the hundreds when the State Police posted them to Facebook. But, said Lt. Mann, drivers routinely engage in behaviors that increase their risk of a collision. Often, that behavior is allowing their attention to be removed from the road ahead and instead fixed on something inside the vehicle.
“What we usually see more is (drivers) letting their pets run around inside of the car,” said Mann. Distractions inside the car – such as children or unrestrained pets – can cause the driver to look away for just a moment, and, on the Lakes Region’s curving roads, that moment is all that it takes to drift toward oncoming traffic.
“There’s a lot going on inside the vehicle,” said Mann. “When you put kids and dogs inside the car, it changes the dynamic of what’s going on inside the car.”
Increasingly common this year, said Mann, is the use of phones and other hand-held devices by a driver. Though the practice has been outlawed for two years, he has seen old habits return.
“We have seen a resurgence of people on the phone – and I find it’s the older people that did this before it was illegal,” Mann said. Don’t expect seniority to garner leniency, though. At 50 miles per hour, vehicles cover a lot of ground while the driver is distracted by operating a phone. “We have nearly zero tolerance for it. Unless it’s an emergency, we’re giving a ticket.”
Mann isn’t exaggerating. Since the beginning of the calendar year, department has written 149 tickets for use of hand-held devices, amounting to more than $19,000 in fines.
Another behavior that is sure to catch a ticket in Belmont is speeding, and especially in the work zone on Route 106.
“We are giving out very expensive tickets,” said Mann. The minimum fine for speeding in an active work zone is $250, and the tickets can rise to as much as $500, depending on the speed, Mann said. But, with changing traffic patterNs and road surfaces, and the need for flaggers to occasionally stop traffic, those lowered speeds are there for everyone’s well-being, he noted.
“The goal is safety. We don’t want to go out there and write tickets, unfortunately, there’s no other recourse,” he said.

2017 06 28 Overloaded Vehi copy

State police stopped this overloaded van in Londonderry after it was spotted on I-93 Wednesday morning. (Courtesy NH State Police)

  • Written by Adam Drapcho
  • Category: Local News
  • Hits: 1839

Robbie Mills Field still without running water but rain helps

06 30 Robbie Mills field a bit yellow

After a tarp was left on the infield too long, the grass was just about dead. The recent rain may help it recover despite the lack of running water at Robbie Mills Sports Complex. (Rick Green/Sun photo)


LACONIA — Nearing the halfway point of their season, the Winnipesaukee Muskrats of the New England Collegiate Baseball League remain high and dry at the Robbie Mills Sports Complex.

There's no running water for bathrooms, concessions or irrigation.

The city is still trying to restore water service to the baseball field two months after it was disrupted by a broken water main.

And, as if portable potties weren't bad enough, a rain tarp was left on too long, turning the infield grass yellow.

Kristian Svindland, the team's general manager, said the team has been forced to find workarounds for the lack of water. Dirty utensils from the concession stand are brought home for cleaning. Bottled water is available for players and fans.

Despite the team's groundskeeping mishap, a rainy summer has worked in the field's favor. Still, that could change.

“The infield is yellow or brownish, but it still plays perfectly,” Svindland said. “We're not in drought conditions, but our main concern is that if conditions change and we get a week with no rain, we'll have some problems.”

City Manager Scott Myers said Thursday he hopes a solution “is days, not weeks” away.

The field at 15 Eastman Road depends on a water tower that is part of the former Laconia State School campus. A water main serving that tower failed in late April.

Rather than make expensive repairs, the state, which is under no obligation to provide water to the city's field, opted to serve its facilities by tying into a water main on Route 106. That roadway is close to the state's property but a good distance from the ball field.

The city's solution was to dig two wells on State School property at a total cost of $47,000. The City Council approved the expenditure, but Laconia still needed to get the state to sign off on the plan. The state required another City Council vote, which occurred Monday, attesting that Myers was authorized to sign relevant documents.

The sports complex land is owned by the state and was leased to the city for 99 years at nominal cost.

It was raining Thursday, which bodes well for the grass, but the portable potties will remain until the water flows again.

Svindland said an average of about 200 people attend each game, and some, particularly of the female variety, object to the primitive facilities.

“We get a complaint every night,” he said. “My mother-in-law has to leave in the seventh inning.”

  • Written by Rick Green
  • Category: Local News
  • Hits: 508

Sanbornton swears in two full-time firefighter-EMTs


SANBORNTON — The swearing-in on Wednesday of two full-time firefighter-EMTs was the culmination of three years of effort to ensure shift coverage, said Sanbornton Fire Chief Paul Dexter.

The chief administered the oath of office to firefighter-paramedic Kenneth Carleton and firefighter-advanced EMT Dan Chapman during a brief ceremony at the fire station after the selectmen had approved the hiring of the two full-time personnel.

The department has 16 local on-call firefighters and seven per diem firefighters it can call upon, but the fire chief has been the only full-time member of the department. Dexter said the two new full-timers will enable the department to be staffed daily.

“Staffing during the late hours has always been a problem,” Dexter said. “It’s looking like we’ll be able to have a paramedic on every shift now, which will be a good thing for the community.”

Carleton is joining the Sanbornton Fire Department as a 22-year firefighter, most recently serving for 12 years in Newport. He has been a paramedic since 2008.

With his wife, Vanessa, he has a 22-year-old daughter and a 23-year-old stepdaughter. Carleton said he will be moving to Sanbornton once they sell their home in Newport.

Chapman is a Sanbornton native, noting that he is from a family of police officers on both his mother’s and father’s side of the family. His mother, Ginger, is a paramedic in Sanbornton, and he decided to join the fire department four years ago. He gained his first certification as an emergency medical technician in 2013 and has just become an advanced EMT.

Chapman is married to Aubrey Chapman and has three children: Owen, 5, Kenley, 3, and Joel, 1.

06 29 Sanbornton FD

Sanbornton Fire Chief Paul Dexter administers the oath of office to Kenneth Carleton and Dan Chapman during a brief ceremony at the Sanbornton Fire Station on Wednesday. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)


  • Written by Tom Caldwell
  • Category: Local News
  • Hits: 434