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Florida Crash Turns Fatal

Staff Reports

Updated May 31, 2010, at 9:50 p.m.; edited and rewritten throughout.

FLORIDA, Mass. —  An accident early Saturday evening has resulted in the death of a Connecticut woman.

A state police spokesman said Hazel Lavallee, 71, of Enfield, Conn., died Monday morning of injuries sustained in the single-car crash.

Lavallee was a passenger in the 2004 Hyundai Sonata driven by her husband, Richard Lavallee, also 71. Both Lavallees were airlifted to Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center on Saturday night with severe injuries.

The single-car crash occurred around 6 p.m. across the from the Whitcomb Summit on the Mohawk Trail.

The Lavallees were eastbound on Route 2 when the he apparently lost control of car and veered off the road, shearing off a utility pole and flipping the car onto the driver's side. The vehicle came to rest in the grassy glade across the highway from the Whitcomb Summit Motel.

The couple were the only occupants and were taken to North Adams Regional Hospital; from there they were airlifted to Albany.

A state police spokesman said he was not aware if Lavallee had been moved from Albany since Saturday.  He confirmed that there had been a report of an erratic driver just four minutes before the crash.

The accident is under investigation by state police.

What is left of the utility is above. Right, emergency responders try to push over the car after the passengers were transported to the hospital.

 

 

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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.

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North Adams Adds Firefighter

Staff Reports

Shaun F. Hayden, center, poses with wife Malinda, son Brodie and Fire Director Steve Meranti outside City Hall.

Shaun F. Hayden was sworn in as a full-time firefighter on Tuesday night at the North Adams City Council. Hayden is the second permanent firefighter hired this year; Matthew Davis joined the company in February.

Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco said Hayden brings the firefighting force up to the required 24. He replaces longtime firefighter and fire educator David Simon who recently retired.

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Car Hits Two Houses in Great Barrington

Staff Reports

One of our readers in Great Barrington reports that a motorist slammed into two houses and trees on East Street on Sunday afternoon.

According to report, the driver, a young woman, lost control of her sport utility vehicle while southbound toward the intersection of Cottage and East streets. She ran into the south side of one house and into the yard, hitting two trees and then into the west side of another house.

Police and fire responded to a call at 3:30 p.m. for a car into a house at 68 East St. On arrival, Great Barrington Fire Chief Harry Jennings reported a SUV had hit two houses and damaged one tree.

No one was reportedly injured and the name of the driver was not immediately released. Police are investigating the accident.

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Couple Sentenced for Embezzlement, False Entry into Corporate Books

Staff Reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A husband and wife who pleaded guilty to embezzlement and false entry into corporate books were sentenced this morning in Berkshire Superior Court.

According to the office of Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless, George Vogel, 60, and Vivian A. Gagnon-Vogel, 49, of 16 Comanche Drive, North Adams, pleaded guilty to one count each of embezzlement and false entry to corporate books on January 15.

The couple took some $1.5 million from their employer, O'Connell Oil at the North Adams Convenience Plus, between Dec. 1, 2003 and Nov. 2, 2007.

Judge Peter Velis sentenced Vogel to a concurrent sentence of three to five years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction. Velis sentenced Gagnon-Vogel to five to six years at the same prison on the false entry charge, and ordered her to serve a concurrent four to five-year sentence on the embezzlement charge.

The North Adams convenience store was managed by Vogel and Gagnon-Vogel was the bookkeeper in the company’s North Adams office. Police said she was taking up to $1,000 in cash a day to support a drug addiction and overstating credit card receipts to balance the books.

Update, May 26, 2010:  A third person, Theresa M. Hosier, 50, of West Shaft Road was sentenced Wednesday, May 26, in Berkshire Superior Court after pleading guilty to single counts of embezzlement and and false entry into corporate books.

Judge John A. Agostini placed her on probation for trhee years and ordered her to perform 500 hours of community service. The investigation was conducted by members of the North Adams Police Department.

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