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North Adams Cruiser Involved in Crash; Officer Injured

Staff Reports
iBerkshires

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A local police officer was taken to the hospital on Wednesday afternoon after his cruiser was involved in a collision on Church Street.

School Resource Officer Fran Maruco was taken to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, where he was treated for contusions and a head injury.

North Adams Police posted an update on its Facebook page later in the evening:

"Just an update on the m/v accident involving Officer Maruco. He is doing pretty well. Several bumps and bruises, very sore. Checked out at BMC. Should be returning home soon. The driver of the other vehicle is expected to be OK, too. A speedy recovery to all. Thank you for your thoughts and best wishes."

The two-car accident occurred shortly after 3 p.m. at the intersection of Church and West Shaft Road. Maruco was reportedly leaving Drury High School and heading north. The state police accident reconstruction team was at the scene and state police were assisting with traffic control.

The front of the North Adams cruiser was heavily damaged, and the impact appeared to be on the front driver's side. The second car, a Mercury sport-utility vehicle, also sustained heavy front-end driver's side damage, with the front panel torn from the car. The windshield was fractured on the driver's side.

Church Street was closed to through traffic from Hodges Cross Road to Ashland Street for several hours during the investigation. West Shaft Road was also closed.

The detours slowed traffic to a crawl along State Street, with cars backed up past Walmart on Curran Highway to the south.

No further information was immediately available.
 

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Three Utility Poles Fall As Result of Pittsfield Car Crash

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
The gold car was seen by witnesses driving into the poles as it crossed the median.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A mid-day accident ripped out three utility poles from the center median of West Street.
 
Police refused to comment on the accident but witnesses at the scene said a gold Pontiac sped over the median near the intersection of West Street and Center Street.
 
The car then proceeded toward Park Square, taking out a total of three metal utility poles along the median, and ultimately was stopped when it crashed into parked cars parked along the westbound lane.
 
The Pontiac suffered damaged to both the front, hood, and roof. The driver's side door of a gray Toyota was caved in, as was the front bumper of another Toyota. All three vehicles were towed from the scene.
 
On scene, officers searched the Pontiac and pulled a number of items, which appeared to be drug paraphernalia, from the vehicle. The driver was placed in handcuffs and placed in the back of a cruiser.
 
City workers also responded to the scene quickly and a half-dozen trucks or so were on scene cleaning up the debris from the poles. Eversource was also on scene. The poles held streetlights and it is unclear what, if any, other utilities were supported by the poles.
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Two Pittsfield Firefighters Hurt Fighting Apartment Building Fire

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. - Two families are displaced after a fire in a Circular Avenue apartment building.
 
Fire officials said heavy fire was found on the first floor about 5 p.m. Saturday. Residents were reported to still be inside, on the second floor. Firefighters faced the heavy fire conditions and searched the second floor but the report turned out to be false.
 
One firefighter suffered an elbow strain and another suffered symptoms of smoke inhalation. Both were evaluated and released from Berkshire Medical Center.
 
The Red Cross is assisting the displaced residents. A dog was also rescued and give CPR by Action Ambulance paramedics and transported to Berkshire Veterinary Hospital. 
 
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
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MCLA Towers Evacuated for Strong Odor; Students Taken to BMC

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
A hazmat team prepares to enter the MCLA towers on Saturday night after a strong smell forced the dormitory to be evacuated.

Updated at 9 p.m. on Sept. 21:  Tower B was reopened as of 6 p.m. on Monday night.

Tower A remains closed, although testing has not found any contaminant or source of the odor that caused the dormitory's evacuation on Saturday.

"On Sunday, September 20, Clean Harbors, an environmental contractor who specializes in emergency response air testing, was hired by the College to conduct a detailed evaluation of the building. Varieties of technology were used throughout the entire area of Berkshire Towers. These tests showed no traces of contaminants," according to a statement from the college.

Further testing was done on Monday with results expected by Tuesday. Representatives from North Adams Fire Department, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Indoor Air Quality Program, and MCLA Facilities Management Department also did a walk-through on Monday.

Updated, write-thru, new photos; 11:08 p.m.; latest update at 9:22 a.m., Sept. 20, includes possible cause of odor.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Nearly 30 MCLA students were taken to the hospital on Saturday night after being exposed to an unknown substance that caused the evacuation of the Berkshire Towers dormitory.

According to a statement from Massachusetts College of LIberal Arts on Sunday morning, "indications of ammonia were found but no source was identified. The college has arranged for further air quality testing to ensure the safety of Berkshire Towers residents."

The Berkshire Towers will remain closed for the short term until then and students residing in the dorms will be offered alternative housing. Classes will resume Monday as scheduled.

The students who were taken to the hospital for evaluation have returned to campus.

James Stakenas, vice president of administration and finance of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, said on Saturday night the the Regional Center for Poison Control had recommended taking the students to the hospital as a "hyper precaution."

"The students are being transported by MCLA vans with EMT folks," Stakenas said. "Again, it's a hyper precaution and the parents of these students are being contacted."

Students on the fifth floor of Tower A had complained of an unidentifiable smell and throat irritation at about 5:30. The Fire Department was called, which in turn contacted the Department of Fire Services Hazardous Materials Response for the tier 2 response.

"They are going to monitor and check for different types of chemicals," said Fire Chief Stephen Meranti. "There's not much for chemicals — there is no refrigeration, no air conditioning, no aerosol."

Meranti said the focus is on Tower A, the northern of the two high-rise dorms on Church Street.

"We don't have any reports of anything in Tower B," he said.

The chief said the evaluation is very labor intensive, with suited hazmat personnel rotating through the building.

"They're still metering, they're still monitoring, it's a methodical process. They have to go floor by floor to check the area," he said. "You can only be in there for a certain amount of time. They do what they can. they come out and they send another team .... it's a continual rotation.

"It's a long drawn-out process."

Two teams in two vehicles arrived at 8:25 and at 8:55 p.m., with the first team entering the building shortly before 9 p.m.

Meranti did not know what they were measuring for but anticipated they would be able to do an evaluation onsite with their specialized equipment.  

Twenty-seven students who were on or near the fifth floor, or who complained of similar symptoms, were taken to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield and to its North Adams campus. They were required to shed their clothing and to be transported in Tyvek suits as part of the hospital's decontamination procedure. Meranti said that was "standard procedure."

Earlier in the evening, several students had said they were told to the gather in the towers' lobby, then left the building when the alarms went off.

"Students detected a smell at about 5:30 and notified the Fire Department," Stakenas said. "The students were evacuated to Venable Hall."

Both towers were expected to be closed for hours, if not the entire night. The city was providing its emergency shelter trailer and was able to help provide food and other comforts. Pizza from Pizza Works was also ordered for the displaced students stuck in Venable's gymnasium because the cafeteria had closed.

Stakenas estimated about 80 students had been evacuated; the towers hold about 250 but many may have left for the weekend or were elsewhere.

North Adams Ambulance Service stationed an ambulance near the gym. Also on scene is the mobile incident command vehicle, North Adams firefighters and police, campus police, and the North Adams Ambulance rehab trailer.

Church Street was closed between Blackinton Street and Hoosac Hall.

There were a few students frustrated with the inability to reach their dorms. "I just want to get some pants," said one girl. Another was annoyed that she was unable to find out when they would be able to get back in or where they would be sleeping.

Stakenas said students should be checking their phones for updates through the college's alert system.

Two students said they were unable to get prescription medicine that was in their dorm rooms. Catherine Holbrook, vice president of student services, said students in those cases should contact college staff to assess how critical the need is; North Adams Ambulance General Manager John Meaney Jr. noted that in an emergency, they can call 911.

Holbrook also encouraged students to contact their parents as soon as possible.  

"Students should be talking to their parents and letting them know they're OK," she said. "There are a lot of worried parents contacting our police and the town, it's tying up the emergency numbers."

 

Strong odor forces the evacuation of MCLA Berkshire towers dormitory on Saturday night. The hazmat team was on the scene along with local fire and police. Some 30 students were affected.

Posted by iBerkshires.com on Saturday, September 19, 2015

 

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Superior Court Briefs: Sept. 14 - Sept. 17

Staff Reports
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Monday, Sept. 14.
 
Guillermo Sanchez, 41, of Pittsfield pleaded guilty to four counts of distribution of cocaine and a single count of conspiracy to violate drug laws to wit: distribution of cocaine.
 
He was ordered to serve concurrent two and a half years at the Berkshire County House of Correction.
 
The charges stem from the sale of cocaine in Pittsfield between September 17, 2013 and October 7, 2014.
 
Charles Daniels Sr., 31, of Pittsfield pleaded guilty to single counts of possession of a firearm, illegal possession of a loaded firearm, possession of ammunition without a firearm identification card, armed career felon, resisting arrest, possession of heroin, operating a motor vehicle with a suspended licenses, disorderly conduct, and failing to stop for a police officer.
 
The charges stem from a motor vehicle stop in Pittsfield on January 1, 2015. He was ordered to serve six to eight years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction on the armed career felon charge. He was given concurrent time on the other charges except failing to stop for a police officer, in which he was ordered to pay a $100 fine. The judge remitted the fine.
 
Lemarr Talley, 32, of Springfield pleaded guilty to single counts of trafficking in cocaine and possession of heroin with intent to distribute in connection with the execution of a search warrant in Pittsfield on July 29, 2014.
 
He was ordered to serve concurrent two and a half to three years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction. He will begin serving the sentence on January 4, 2016.
 
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Tuesday, Sept. 15.
 
Nakiba Browne was sentenced to concurrent five to eight years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction on single counts of manufacturing cocaine and manufacturing heroin.
 
The charges stem from the execution of a search warrant at his Linden Street home on September 19, 2014. He was found guilty to the charges on September 10, 2015.
 
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Thursday, Sept. 17.
 
Paul Dugal Jr., 53, of North Adams pleaded guilty to single counts of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol - his third offense - and operating to endanger. 
 
The charges are in connection with a motor vehicle stop in North Adams on August 5, 2014. He was ordered to serve 18 months at the Berkshire County House of Correction on the operating under the influence charge and placed on one-year probation on the other.
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