QUEENSBURY — A Queensbury woman was killed and another suffered life-threatening injuries in a three-vehicle crash on Route 149 on Monday morning that left a tractor-trailer teetering on its side off the road.
Caroline Bennett, 44, of Bay Road was pronounced dead at the scene and her passenger, Ellen Gipe, 41, was taken to Albany Medical Center via helicopter.
Bennett was driving a sport-utility vehicle that crossed into the wrong lane, hitting a tractor-trailer head-on. Gipe, who was married to Bennett, was a passenger in the front of the SUV.
Sheriff’s Lt. Steve Stockdale said Gipe was in critical but stable condition Monday afternoon, and that she was undergoing surgery.
The tractor-trailer was knocked off the south side of the road, halfway down an embankment, by the force of the collision. It appeared held up by guidewires from rolling completely down the embankment.
Evidence at the scene seemed to show the collision happened well into the eastbound lane, with the tractor-trailer being struck head-on. Police said it was unclear where the women were headed or why the vehicle went into the wrong lane, but toxicology tests will be performed based on evidence that police uncovered at the scene that led them to question whether Bennett was impaired by drugs at the time of the collision.
Route 149 reopened just before 5 p.m. Traffic was diverted onto Oxbow Hill Road, Moon Hill Road and Martindale Road during the investigation and cleanup.
Neither the tractor-trailer driver, Larry Long Jr., 49, of Ephrata, Pennsylvania, nor the occupant of the car that was hit by the ricocheting SUV was hurt. The car was hit by the SUV after it was thrown back by the oncoming truck, and that driver was identified as Guy Fullen, 59, of Queensbury.
Long was pulling a trailer loaded with mattresses and box springs from Pennsylvania to Vermont when the SUV veered into the path of his truck. He said it wasn’t clear whether the SUV had tried to pass a vehicle or had crossed into the wrong lane for another reason, but it did not appear to be speeding.
With a steep embankment to his right, he said he had no room to try to avoid the collision.
“I saw it coming and looked and said ‘I’ve got nowhere to go,’” he said at the crash scene, as firefighters cut the SUV to remove its occupants. “I was surprised it (the truck) didn’t roll all the way over and I was able to get out.”
“He pulled over as far to the right as he could,” Warren County Emergency Services Coordinator Brian LaFlure said.
The SUV had veered out of its lane as it headed west in a right-hand curve going up Oxbow Hill. It was knocked 20 to 30 yards backward by the force of the crash, its drive shaft ripped from the vehicle.
Long and other truck drivers who were at the scene said they know that 149 is a difficult, busy road, particularly for trucks during the summer’s heavy, tourist-related traffic.
Brad Watson, a truck driver from Endwell who was three vehicles behind Long’s truck, said he saw two cars ahead of him drive right through the crash scene a split second after it happened, the drivers not stopping to see if they could help.
“I couldn’t believe it. They just kept going,” he said.
Watson was part of a convoy that was headed to Addison, Vermont, with amusement park rides for a fair in Vermont.
The Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation and Traffic Safety Unit is investigating the crash, assisted at the scene and helicopter landing zone by Bay Ridge, North Queensbury, South Queensbury and Queensbury Central firefighters and Bay Ridge, North Queensbury and Fort Edward rescue squads.