Car Crashes Into Pittsfield High School; One Killed
|A car crashed into Pittsfield High School on Tuesday afternoon after speeding across the intersection from Second Street.|
Update on Jan. 15: Police report both occupants of the car have died. They have been identified as Tariq Sally, 34, and Ernest Duck Jr., 37.
Editor's note: This article has been updated with information from Sgt. Trapani and Superintendent McCandless at 5:51 p.m. and extraneous information removed.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A white car reportedly roared out of Second Street and across East Street just before 3 p.m., hitting the curb and slamming into the wall in front Pittsfield High School.
One occupant of the vehicle has died as a result of his injuries, according to police, who have not released any names.
Police Sgt. Mark Trapani said the accident occurred at about 2:49 p.m. He said he did not have any further information on the occupants other than that there were two men and both were from Pittsfield.
Police were aware of reports the car had been speeding along Second Street, blowing through red lights and stop signs, he said, but it was not known where they were coming from.
Witnesses reported seeing the car traveling at a high rate of speed down Second Street toward the school. Unconfirmed reports have put the speed at 80 to 100 mph.
Trapani said police had "only suspicions" about what caused the crash, adding there were "no other contributing factors besides the operation of this one car at this point." He did say, in response to a question, that any possible medical factors would be investigated.
Principal Matthew Bishop said he was in the school lobby with others when they heard the crash and saw smoke. Some students were on the steps of the school at the time of the accident, he said, but they were unharmed. The high school lets out at about 2:20 p.m.
"From 2 to 2:20, this is lined with pedestrians, students and pickup cars — parents waiting to pick up students from school — so yes, this could have been much, much worse," said Trapani.
Brandon Price, head of the math department, was in his room on the second floor of the building, across the lawn from where the incident took place. It was hot in his classroom, so the windows were open as he was with a group of students partaking in after-school help. He and his students heard a loud noise and rushed to the window.
"I was in my room, which is just right across the way from the car," he said. "That's scary."
"I was sitting there with a bunch of kids. I have all the windows open. We hear a really loud, like a thud, so we all get towards the window. When we look out the window, literally, the car is elevated off the ground, the tires are in the air and there's debris everywhere."
"Literally, kids were crying as soon as it happened. It was the scariest sound you've ever heard."
"I told them to close the windows, because you could already, instantly smell gas," he said. "I told them to go to the library, then I went downstairs. Actually, I called 9-1-1 before I left."
Superintendent Jason McCandless said staff and faculty have been working with the students who were in the school for after-school programs, including a well-attended 21st Century School program.
"We got kids to a place where we knew it was safe after understanding initially what actually happened and worked with several counseling staff," he said. "We do believe there were students who were here and who did witness it through windows or from being on the sidewalk."
Counselors who had been home returned to the school to meet with teens and their parents have been notified that their children may have been witness to a traumatic event.
"We have counseling staff up on site now and we'll have counseling staff, extra counseling staff, for tomorrow for students and for faculty who may be traumatized by what happened here," he said, adding "It's just devastating the thought if the timing had been different, had it been a day when students were congregating."
The school has also canceled tonight's boys' basketball game at home against Lee.
Both sides of East Street were closed to traffic for about a half-hour between Appleton and Bartlett avenues; the westbound lanes were reopened just after 3:30 p.m. but the eastbound was reduced to one lane at the time of this report.
"Our preliminary investigation, according to witnesses, is they came off of Second St., came across [East St.] ... ," said Police Capt. David Granger at the scene, pointing to the tree near the sidewalk where the car hit before landing on the school lawn.
"There were students there, the school was open. It was after school. There were students out front here," he said. "We're in the process of talking to school administrators and the students that were in the school. Some of them were eyewitnesses."
Granger said the preliminary investigation indicated that only two men were in the car.
"No civilians got hurt. No other people got hurt out here on the scene, but there were, what appeared to be, two males in the car and they've been taken to Berkshire Medical Center."
The crash prompted a full-scale response, including at one point four firetrucks, two ambulances and at least eight police vehicles. Initial reports were that a vehicle had crashed into the school with multiple people trapped.
Reporting by Andy McKeever and Dan Gigliotti