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Head-On Collision North Adams Leaves One in Critical Condition

Staff Reports

A GoFundMe has been set up for Kaileigh Lewis, the young mother who was a passenger in the Honda and who is in critical condition at BMC.
Update, 3:19 p.m., June 17: The driver of the Dodge Durango involved in Friday's head-on collision is expected to face "numerous motor vehicle charges," according to police. 
 
Robert Matte Jr., 43, of North Adams, has been identified as the owner and driver of the northbound Durango that apparently veered into the opposite lane and hit a Honda CRV with five people in it, including two very young children.
 
Kaileigh Lewis, 23, of North Adams, a passenger in the back seat of the Honda, was severely injured in the crash. Also injured was Diane Pearson, 49, the Honda's driver, who was visiting from Texas to see her new grandchild, 4-day-old Aleksei Davila, who was in the back seat. 
 
Also in the Honda was Marcos Davila Rodriguez, the car's owner, in the front passenger seat, and 2-year-old Inali Davis, also in the back. 
 
Both children were in secure car seats but Lewis, who was sitting between them, was not wearing a seat belt, according to Sgt. James Burdick. 
 
"Everybody was transported to various hospitals," he said on Saturday. "Some when to BMC North and some went to BMC Pittsfield and some went to Bay State Medical Center in Springfield. ... Ms. Pearson was pretty severely injured and Ms. Lewis was severely injured."
 
The 2-year-old was taken as a precaution to Bay State because of striations, or bruising, caused by the seat belts, he said. However, he added, "that's because they had the child properly seat belted and locked in a child safety seat, which is excellent."
 
Both the driver and the passenger in the Honda had seat belts on; Lewis and Matte did not.
 
"That's why we advocate all of the time for seat belts and car seats," Burdick said. 
 
He said the accident is still under investigation and that "Matte will be facing numerous motor vehicle charges."
 
"We are still waiting on accident reconstruction to finish with their investigation and we will put the charges together at that time and he will be charged accordingly," the sergeant said.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A head-on collision on south Church Street on Friday afternoon left several people injured, one in critical condition.

 
The collision between two sport utility vehicles occurred just about 2 p.m. by the Peter W. Foote Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink. 
 
Police Lt. Jason Wood said a northbound Dodge Durango veered into the opposite lane and hit a Honda CRV that was heading south.
 
Wood said at this point, it is unknown why the Dodge crossed the center line.
 
"For whatever reason, it left the travel lane and we are trying to figure out why that occurred," he said.
 
There were five occupants — including a young child and an infant — in the Honda. Wood believed that all five were taken to Berkshire Medical Center in North Adams or Pittsfield by North Adams Ambulance Service. Wood said one occupant of the Honda has been listed in critical condition and that the driver of the Dodge did not appear to be injured. 
 
Wood said one of the school resource officers was at Drury High School and was able to get to the accident quickly. He said he had been in contact with state police that the accident was still under investigation.
 
Two other cars southbound were also involved when one stopped because of the accident and was rear-ended by the vehicle following. Neither car appeared to sustain notable damage. The front end of the Honda, however, incurred significant damage. 
 
South Church was closed from West Shaft Road south (it was still closed just before 5 p.m., police say to expect the road to be closed until 8 p.m.) and traffic was turned around or routed over West Shaft. 
 
Both North Adams Police and Fire responded to the accident. Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts campus police and Adams Police helped reroute traffic and Adams Ambulance also provided assistance.
     

Home Damaged, Pets Lost in North Adams Fire

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — An early morning fire severely damaged a Greylock Avenue home on Sunday. No one was injured but two pets were lost. 

 
Fire Director Stephen Meranti said the fire began on small exterior porch on the south side of the single-family home. 
 
"It extended up the outside and it entered a window on the second floor and it entered the attic, so the attic was a little difficult," he said. "The fire gets between the slate and board."
 
The fire was called in shortly after midnight by a neighbor, who also alerted the homeowners. The house's fire alarms went off as well, said Meranti.
 
Police Officer Anthony Beverly, who responded within minutes, said he could see the fire before he took the corner onto Greylock and that the smoke was so heavy he had trouble seeing his way around the outside of the house.
 
"The south side of the building was fully on fire," he said. 'The flames were roiling up the side. They knocked it down pretty quick. They did a good job."
 
Fire Lt. John Paciorek called for the oncoming shift en route to the scene after hearing Beverly's description and put out an all call for all shifts to come in when he got to the scene. 
 
Clarksburg Fire Company sent a truck to fill the airpacks and Adams Fire Department was covering the North Adams station. North Adams Ambulance Service set up a rehab tent for firefighters to get out the rain. 
 
Meranti said the occupants were able to get out of the house but not their two cats. 
 
"They lost the two cats in there, they couldn't revive them," he said.
 
The incident is still under investigation but is not considered suspicious. 
 

     

Two Juveniles Arrested in Relation to Sullivan School Arson

Staff Reports
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Police have arrested two juveniles related to the fires set inside Sullivan School on Friday night. 
 
Police Director Michael Cozzaglio said the two juveniles were arrested on Monday afternoon but have not yet been arraigned. Their names are being withheld because of their ages. 
 
"These fires were intentionally set," Cozzaglio said. "It was pretty serious stuff and we wanted to resolve this as quickly as possible."
 
He said no further information could be released at this time. 
 
Firefighters were called to the vacant Sullivan School at about 8:12 p.m. on Friday and spent nearly two hours searching the multi-level school in heavy smoke and dousing a number of fires.
 
All off-duty firefighters were called in because of the amount of manpower needed to contain the building. Fire Director Stephen Meranti on Friday night had initially said three fires had been discovered but later updated that to multiple fires on more than one level. 
 
There were four fire extinguishers lined up at the front of the building when firefighters arrived.
 
The 51,000 square foot building has been empty for more than a year since the opening of Colegrove Park Elementary School but was being used for storage. It also still contains a lot of school materials and furnishings that were left behind. It was recently listed for sale by the city.
 
Cozzaglio said the investigation was lead by Officer Brad Vivori with assistance from the state police Arson Unit and other North Adams officers and investigative agencies. 
 
"It really was a team effort. Everyone's pitched in with this," he said, adding that officers pushed to find the suspects behind the fires both because of the seriousness of the crime and to "give our citizens peace of mind."
 
     

Multiple Fires Set in North Adams School

Staff Reports
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Multiple fires were apparently deliberately set throughout Sullivan School on Friday night. 
 
"There was more than one fire on more than one level," Fire Director Stephen Meranti said late Friday after firefighter has spent some two hours tracking down the blazes and ventilating the multilevel elementary school.
 
The state fire marshal was called to investigate and state police were also at the scene. Meranti said nothing was being ruled out. However, he was sure it was not electrical — the department had been responding to a number of calls related to alarms and wires after heavy rains blew through in the afternoon.
 
Mayor Richard Alcombright, who was at the scene for a time, said he would be awaiting the results of the investigation by the state fire marshal and the city's police force, and will assess the damage.
 
The call came in shortly after 8 p.m. of smoke on the roof of the school, which is tucked away off Kemp Avenue. That was confirmed, according to scanner reports, by a member of the Stamford, Vt., Fire Department. 
 
Heavy smoke could be seen through the windows of the lobby. When the doors were opened and the windows in the cafetorium smashed, dark smoke billowed out of the building about 8:30. 
 
No flames could be seen from the outside but firefighters found and doused fires as they searched the interior of the vacant building. 
 
"It's very manpower intensive, it's not a very big fire but because of the size of the building and trying to search the entire building, and try to extinguish the fires as they went along. it was a pretty involved operation," Meranti said.
 
Firefighters used three thermal imagers — one man holding and others on the team following — to track down the fires in the smoke-filled building. 
 
The four-story masonry building, constructed in the mid-1960s as East School to answer the city's baby boom, has been empty for nearly two years since the opening of Colegrove Park Elementary School. The $51,000-square-foot structure is for sale but has been used for storage by the School Department. 
 
The School Department has been securing the building and there has been a number of acts of vandalism in breaking windows. Those are have been boarded up but Meranti said there were a couple of spots on Friday night that someone could have gotten into the building. 
 
There were also four fire extinguishers lined up on the left pole of the lobby portico. Those were there when firefighters arrived and Meranti said it is not known who left them. 
 
The fire director said some of the materials still inside the school were burning in the fires. The largest was in the cafetorium in the front of the building where stacks of boxed up ceiling tiles were stored by the stage. 
 
He said there was a lot of smoke damage in the building and that the department was still forcing smoke for affected areas. A lot of the damage, particularly in the cafetorium, was to the materials being stored there. 
 
Once the extent of the situation was realized, all off-duty firefighters were called in and Adams Fire Department covered the city's station. 
 
North Adams Ambulance Service provided water and supplies; Clarksburg sent a truck to fill air bottles.
 
"We went through a lot of bottles because there's a lot of areas to cover," Meranti said. 
 
He said firefighters would be at the building for the rest of the night. It was not clear when more information would be available. 
 
"This is an active investigation," he said. 
     

North Adams Fire Battles Eagle Street Blaze

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff

Flames were pouring out of the second floor of the building. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A Victorian on Eagle Street sustained extensive damage after it broke out in flames on Saturday night.
 
The second floor of the large circa-1900 home at 243 Eagle was in flames when the first emergency responders arrived at the scene.
 
"We come around the corner and it was very obvious we were going to need the entire department," said Lt. Michael Sherman, who responded with C group, the shift on duty. An all-call was made to bring in off-duty firefighters. 
 
The owner, listed as Sandra Thomas, made a 911 call, said Lt. John Paciorek. She was able to exit the building and get her pets, a dog and two cats, out of the house as well.
 
Thomas recalled seeing smoke and fire in the house as she made her way out with the last cat. 
 
"There was fire showing on the second floor of the building ... they advanced hose lines to the second floor to extinguish it," said Paciorek. "At the same time, there was fire showing on the first floor in the back and that was extinguished as well."
 
As the fire was contained in the front of the building, flames burst through a back window on the first floor in the back along Liberty Street. It took at least an hour to bring the blaze under control.
 
Paciorek said it wasn't clear yet what the path of the fire was or what caused it. The blaze is still under investigation and the state fire marshal's office has been contacted.
 
However, he said, "it is not deemed suspicious at this time."
 
The call came in at 9:53 p.m. and the fire wasn't fully out until after 11 p.m. Eagle Street was blocked by emergency equipment from Hall Street to the fork at Franklin Street. Emergency vehicles lined Eagle Street and the Fire Department's ladder truck was situated on Liberty Street.
 
North Adams Ambulance Service responded as did the city's Wire & Alarm Department. Mayor Richard Alcombright also visited the scene.
 
Firefighters began cleaning up the scene around midnight and planned to keep a fire watch through the night.
 
"It's a good group of guys. They knew the job. they got in there and got the brunt of the fire down," Sherman said. "Then going in and getting to the hot spots. ... 
 
"The guys on the Fire Department did their job and did it well." 
 
     
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