BELMONT — A man who died after a head-on collision on New Hampshire Route 107 Tuesday morning "absolutely would have survived" had he been wearing his seat belt and shoulder harness, police chief Mark Lewandoski said Wednesday.
“His head struck the windshield,” Lewandoski said.
“You have to have the belt on. The forces generated from a sudden stop like that are tremendous. There’s no way your arm strength alone will hold you in the seat. You will be projected forward at pretty good velocity.”
Police Capt. Rich Mann identified the person who died as Jackson Brulotte, 19, of Gilmanton Iron Works. He was driving a 2003 Honda Civic.
Injured in the crash was Timothy Stevens, 18, of Gilmanton, a Gilford High School student, who was driving a 1997 Honda CR-V. He was wearing a seatbelt.
“Stevens sustained non-life threatening injuries and is still hospitalized,” Mann said. “Stevens’ family says he was in stable condition but faces an extended recovery time.”
Both vehicles appeared to be traveling at the speed limit of 40 mph, and there were no skid marks or signs of evasive action, he said. The collision took place in the northbound lane.
The crash occurred at 8:18 a.m. on Route 107 just north of Brown Hill Road. Traffic was detoured for hours while the accident was investigated.
Chief Lewandoski said Brulotte’s vehicle crossed the centerline and into the path of the other car. An investigation will attempt to determine why the accident occurred.
At that time of day, the sun would have been in the eyes of Brulotte, who was going south, Lewandoski said. Stevens was going north on his way to Gilford High School.
“We are still investigating, but it could be as simple as the sun was in a precarious location,” he said. “When you are southbound, you come up a grade after Stephens Frame & Collision repair. As you are going over the hill, the sun impacts you.”
A cell phone was found outside the Civic in the snow. Part of the investigation will determine if phone use played any part in the accident.
Lewandoski said he was driving to the police station Tuesday and happened on the scene about 30 seconds after the crash. Both drivers were trapped.
Somebody was applying pressure to Brulotte’s head and caring for him.
Lewandoski went over to Stevens. The young man was shaken up and his back was sore.
The chief cut the seatbelt and used a coat to protect Stevens from glass fragments as firefighters used hydraulic tools to cut the car apart and free him from the wreckage.
“He said he never saw it coming,” Lewandoski said.
Firefighters and paramedics were quickly on the scene. Both drivers were taken to Lakes Region General Hospital. Brulotte died before a planned transfer flight to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.
The hill near the accident scene creates a kind of blind spot that would make it difficult to see and respond in time to an oncoming car, the chief said.
Route 107 is an undivided highway with turns, hills and side streets, creating dangers for anyone who isn’t paying full attention to the road.
“That’s where distracted driving comes into play,” Lewandoski said. “If you're not fully focused on driving, at 40 mph, it takes minimal seconds to put you in the wrong lane.
“If you are playing with your phone, your radio, trying to look at something on a seat and you take your eyes off the road, it’s easy to drift. It’s crested, curvy and those things come into play. You have to be paying attention all the time. Even if you’re changing a radio station. It takes too short of time to be over the line.”
Nearby Route 106, also an undivided highway, had eight fatalities over a year’s time. There has been discussion of adding rumble strips to that road to prevent head-on accidents, but Lewandoski said this has not been done yet.