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10 Arrested for Blocking Roads Near Sandisfield Gas Pipeline Project

SANDISFIELD, Mass. — Ten protestors were arrested Wednesday morning for blocking roads to the natural gas pipeline extension project. 
 
State police said two groups — one at Cold Spring Road and South Beech Plain Road, the other at an access road —were peacefully blocking workers' access to the work area. Private security officers notified state police of the blockade at about 6:47 a.m. on Wednesday. 
 
Protestors were asked to disperse but informed "security they were refusing to leave and understood that would face arrest," according to state police. Troopers also asked them to disperse repeatedly and when they refused, they were arrested for trespassing. 
 
The controversial Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. expansion of an existing line cuts through Otis State Forest and has been opposed by area residents as well as advocates against fracked gas and new pipeline infrastructure. A protest group has been in place in Sandisfield since clearing began for the nearly 4-mile loop. 
 
Arrested were: 
  • Irvine Sobleman, 67, of Northampton;
  • Ellen M. Graves, 76, of West Springfield;
  • Patricia P. Wieland, 73, of Northampton;
  • Harriet A. Nestel, 78, of Athol;
  • Amanda L. Nash, 58, of Gloucester;
  • Erik W. Burcroff, 57, of Plainfield;
  • Priscilla Lynch, 65, of Conway;
  • Mary E. Kehler, 70, of Colrain;
  • Bonner J. McAllister, 68, of Monterey; and
  • Sherrill Hogen, 78, of Charlemont.
The arrestees were transported to the Berkshire County sheriff's department to be booked. They were expected to be released, most likely on personal recognizance, and ordered to appear in court for arraignment in the near future.
 
The roadways were reopened by 9:10 a.m.
     

Woman Pleads Guilty in Sandisfield Fatal Crash

Staff Reports

Update Monday, Oct. 4, 2010, at 2:45 p.m.: Balsamo was sentenced in Berkshire Superior Court on Monday morning to six to 10 years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Cedar Junction on the vehicular homicide charge. The other charges were filed.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A Connecticut woman pleaded guilty on Wednesday morning to charges related to the Sandisfield crash that killed Erin Dufour of Chicopee last year. Dufour, who was also listed by authorities as residing in Tolland, spent much of her life in Western Massachusetts.

Pamela N. Balsamo, 48, of Cedar Lane, Barkhamsted, Conn., appeared before Judge John  Agostini in Berkshire Superior Court. She pleaded guilty to single counts of motor vehicle homicide while under the influence of alcohol and operating to endanger, failure to stay within marked lanes and speeding.

Agostini ordered that she be held without bail at the Berkshire County House of Correction pending sentencing which will occur Monday, Oct. 4, at 10 a.m.  
 
Balsamo was operating a Mercedes that struck the 29-year-old Dufour's Honda head-on on March 18, 2009.

The investigation was conducted by state troopers assigned to the Lee barracks.


Chicopee Woman Killed in Sandisfield Head-on Crash

11:40PM / Wednesday, March 18, 2009

SANDISFIELD, Mass. — A Chicopee woman was killed Wednesday evening after her car was hit head-on by another vehicle on Route 8 near Tucker's Tavern.

Erin E. Dufour, 29, of was northbound on Route 8 in a 2008 Honda hatchback at about 8 p.m. when she was struck head on by 47-year-old Pamela Balsamo of Barkhamsted, Conn., who was driving a 2002 Mercedes sedan south in the northbound lane, according to the preliminary investigation by Trooper James Somerville of the Lee barracks.

The Dufour suffered serious injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene by the medical examiner. Balsamo was transported by ambulance with serious injuries to Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington, Conn.

The crash remains under investigation with the assistance of the state police Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section and Crime Scene Services. The Sandisfield Police Department, Fire Department and emergency medical services and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner assisted troopers at the scene.

All lanes of Route 8 were closed for approximately 1 ½ hours for the crash investigation and vehicle removal.

Dufour had lived in Western Mass for 10 years and was a Pella Windows sales representative. Born in Maine, she spent much of her life there but spent her senior year of high school in New York, graduating from Bethlehem High School in Delmar.

An outdoorswoman and athlete, she received best in show for driving "The Queen Bee" at a tri-county demolition derby in Northampton. She loved cats and volunteered at the local animal shelter. Her parents live in Lakeville.

Updated with victim's identity, Thursday, March 19, 2009, 8:45 a.m.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009: This story has generated a great deal of interest so we have included more information about Ms. Dufour and a link to her obituary in SouthCoastToday.

Tags: fatal, crash, vehicle      

Thousands Without Power in Neighboring Counties

Staff Reports

Our neighbors east of the Berkshires were hard hit by last night's severe thunderstorms. Thousands were left without power and Western Massachusetts Electric Co. says that 31,000 customers were still out at 10:30 this morning. It may take several days until all customers are fully restored.

Officials say they have engaged the help of contractor and neighboring utility crews to assist with damage assessment, clean up and restoration efforts, after overnight winds, heavy rain and lightning caused extensive damage in WMECo's service territory.

Hardest hit towns include: Amherst, Bernardston, Buckland, Deerfield, Easthampton, Gill, Greenfield, Hadley, Hatfield, Montague, Shelburne and Springfield. Currently there are more than 440 trouble spots. 

In Berkshire County, about a 100 customers are still affected in Becket, Lanesborough, Otis, Sandisfield and Tyringham. The storm blew through North Berkshire around 11 p.m. on Wednesday.

National Grid was also reporting a large number of outages in Central Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick was visiting Turners Falls this afternoon to view the damage.

Because of the large number of road closures, WMECo plans to use a helicopter patrol over Franklin and Hampshire counties to better assess the amount of damage to its distribution system. WMECo said it continues to evaluate the extent of damage; at this time restoration times are not available.

In terms of numbers of customers affected, WMECo said early indications show that this storm's impact is comparable to the December 2008 ice storm.

The utility is reminding people not to go anywhere near downed wires and report them immediately by calling 911 or WMECo at 1-800-286-2000. Don't operate generators indoors and make sure they are installed by a licensed electrician.

For more information, go to the Storm Center. You can also follow their Twitter feed.

Tags: storm, power outage      
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