Sandisfield Town Garage Burns to the Ground
SANDISFIELD, Mass. — WesternMassNews.com
is reporting that the Sandisfield Town Garage burned to the ground Sunday morning.
According to news reports, the five-alarm fire was reported shortly after 9 a.m. and was "fully engulfed" when firefighters from multiple companies arrived at the scene.
Sandisfield's Fire Chief Ralph Morrison told Western Mass News that highway crews had been at the building locking up just minutes before the fire is believed to have started.
The first snow storm of the season had rolled through the Berkshires beginning Saturday morning, dumping up to 6 inches of snow across the region.
Sandisfield's four highway trucks were in the building and are now considered a total loss. Western Mass News is also reporting an Otis fire vehicle was involved in an accident on its way to the scene.
Three Arrested at Pipeline Protests in Sandisfield
SANDISFIELD, Mass. — Three people, including a Lenox man, were arrested on Wednesday at the site of the Tennessee Gas pipeline project by state police. A Connecticut man, whom troopers say tried to flee, was tased.
Two were arrested for refusing orders to move out of the way of construction vehicles and the third for allegedly assaulting two troopers who attempted to apprehend him after he trespassed on private property.
Max S. Bambery, 31, of Lenox, and Priscilla A. Lynch, 65, of Conway, were charged with disorderly conduct.
Jacob Renner, 24, of Sharon, Conn., was charged with two counts of assault and battery on a police office and single counts of trespassing, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct.
There have been constant protests and numerous arrests made at the site of the 3.8-mile pipeline expansion through Otis State Forest. Called the Connecticut Expansion Project, this section and quarter-mile piece in New York State will hook into another 8 miles in Hampden County and Connecticut. The company was given the go-ahead this week to begin flowing natural gas through the line.
According to state police, Renner and another moan trespassed onto 114 South Beech Plain Road at approximately 1 p.m. on Wednesday. The private property is near the project site that state police say was clearly marked "No Trespassing." The owner of the property has previously made clear that he does not want protestors on his property.
When asked to leave the property by a private security officer, Renner and the other man refused to do so. Troopers responded to the location and observed the men walking down the driveway on the property, behind the "No Trespassing" signs.
Troopers observed that Renner had his hands in his pockets and say he refused to show his hands despite being asked to do so several times, raising concerns that he may have had a weapon. A trooper then instructed another trooper at the scene to place Renner under arrest, at which point Renner began running along South Beech Plain Road. When troopers ran after him and attempted to cut him off, he shoved two of them, knocking one off balance and the other to the ground, and then continued to struggle with them in an attempt to get free.
A trooper drew his issued electronic control weapon and, as Renner continued to struggle, deployed one set of probes into the suspect's back and buttocks in accordance with departmental policy. The deployment of the probes momentarily ended the struggle, but after several seconds the suspect regained mobility, pulled the probes free, and continued to struggle.
Troopers then got the suspect under control and placed him in custody. During a search of Renner, a trooper located a knife on his belt. Renner initially refused to give his name and date of birth despite several requests to do so. He was evaluated by an ambulance crew and refused treatment. After being transported to the Berkshire County House of Corrections for processing, Renner was read his Miranda rights. He continued to refuse to provide his identity for several hours.
The other man who had trespassed onto the property with Renner fled into the woods and was not located.
At approximately 1:50 p.m., troopers responded to South Beech Plain Road near the project site where 30 to 40 protesters were blocking the road, shouting, and chanting. The protesters were blocking the path of a large, heavy-load dump truck. A trooper in her cruiser attempted to escort the truck through the protestors. Many of them moved out of the way, but several of them – some dressed in black robes and white masks – cut between the cruiser and the truck.
The trooper got out of her cruiser and asked these protestors to move out of the road, and they all refused. The trooper believed these protestors were putting themselves in danger given their proximity to the huge Euclid model dump truck.
Other state police personnel responded and instructed the protestors to allow vehicles to move freely on the road, and noted that if they did not do so, they risked being arrested. Eventually, most protestors walked out of the road, but Bambery and Lynch refused to do so and were arrested. They were also brought to the Berkshire County jail, advised of their Miranda rights, and booked.
All three defendants had court appearances today.
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.
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
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.
Thousands Without Power in Neighboring Counties
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.