When an elderly female driver went off Berkshire Road while traveling west on Monday, August 28, her night could have ended up much worse than it did.
Shortly before 9 pm, Eileen Brewer of Ansonia crashed into a tree in the front yard of 109 Berkshire Road. She did minor damage to her vehicle, but she did not suffer major injuries. The 80-year-old woman reportedly had no recollection of the accident, and seemed very confused when the first people who found her began talking with her.
According to the police report from that evening, Ms Brewer was traveling west on Berkshire Road and negotiating the curve near Zoar Road, when her 1998 Nissan Altima traveled off the westbound shoulder. It struck and knocked over a small tree, and then struck a large tree, coming to a stop in the front yard of the private residence.
Sandy Hook resident Ryan Argraves had been traveling in a vehicle driven by his friend, AJ Palmieri. Two others, Aidan Palmieri (AJ’s twin brother) and Bryan Vano, were also in the vehicle.
“AJ had just picked me up,” said Ryan. “We were going to the center of town to meet up with some friends, hang out, and whatnot.”
The four young men, all in their late teens, were about the begin classes for the 2017-18 academic year.
“We saw this car going really slow, and wondered what was going on,” Ryan said August 30. There was one vehicle between Ms Brewer’s Altima and AJ’s vehicle. All three vehicles were traveling west on Berkshire Road (Route 34), in the area of Grays Plain Road, when the boys realized something was amiss with the driver of the sedan two vehicles ahead of them.
“She took one corner at like 20 miles an hour,” Ryan said. “She was on the next straightaway, and was wobbly, like she didn’t know where she was, or how to drive that road. We thought she was driving under the influence.
“She took the next corner,” he said, referring to Berkshire’s hard turn, on a decline, near Old Mill Road. At the next intersection, with Zoar Road, less than a quarter of a mile north, where the road curves to the left, Ms Brewer’s car kept going straight.
“I didn’t see any brake lights,” said AJ. “There was no correction. She just went straight, right off the road.”
Revisiting the scene of the accident on August 30, the boys were unsure if Ms Brewer’s vehicle had hit curbing — fresh marks on the asphalt indicated it probably had — but both were fairly sure that “she bottomed out,” said Ryan. After hitting the curb, Ms Brewer’s car continued straight for approximately 100 feet before the front driver’s side of her car struck the large tree and stopped.
On Monday evening, AJ had pulled over to the eastern side of Berkshire, and the young men got out and ran through the shrubs, to the vehicle that had just crashed. Another friend, nearby resident John Bienkowski, also caught up with the group.
“I ran out of the car and started telling her to not hit the gas pedal,” Ryan said. “I kept saying ‘Ma’am, don’t hit the gas. Shut the car off.’ She was really dazed and confused. She had no idea what was going on.”
AJ agreed, saying the driver “didn’t even know she had hit a tree.”
Ryan called 911 and began telling dispatchers what he could about the accident.
“I kept asking her if she was okay, or if she was hurting,” said Ryan. “She was all right. There were no airbags deployed. She was talking, and awake.”
It was Ryan’s cousin, Bryan, who noticed that the car had a handicapped permit hanging from its mirror, said Ryan.
“We asked about medications, and she told us she took things in the morning,” said AJ. “She’s from Ansonia, but kept saying she was trying to get to Derby.”
In her short drive off the state roadway, Ms Brewer managed to drive across the driveway of the private home, and then along a series of five boulders that had been placed by Anne and John Howat, the former residents of the home, about midway between the front door of their circa 1747 center chimney Colonial and the road.
“She’s lucky she didn’t hit these rocks, or hit that tree harder,” AJ said the morning of August 30. Looking around, the boys found small pieces of automotive debris left behind after the crash. The oak in the front yard that stopped the vehicle had a new scar on its old truck, and a patch of dirt along the northern side of the driveway indicated where Ms Brewer’s vehicle had bottomed out while heading into the yard.
Ryan and AJ both feel things could have been worse for the woman.
“It almost didn’t seem real, the way she went off the road,” Ryan said. “She was moving slowly, but the accident, within two or three seconds it was over with.
“Once she started going downhill,” past Zoar Road, he said, “she gained a little bit of speed, but she was still way below the speed limit. But it’s probably better that she was going slower.”
A large tree stopped Ms Brewer from continuing her route forward. Had she continued north between the tree and line of boulders, the side yard of the property then slopes deeply before opening into a field of approximately 91,900 square feet. To the immediate west of the field is another property, currently uninhabited and on the market. Trees and shrub line the roadway, partially blocking views of the field during daylight and hiding anything in there after dark.
Had the young men and others not witnessed the accident that occurred just before dusk, Ms Brewer and her vehicle may not have been discovered for hours.
Instead, she was reportedly checked at the scene for injuries. While she did not lose consciousness, there was still a concern over her not remembering the accident or the time leading up to it while she was navigating the roadway.
She was transported to a hospital for evaluation, according to the police report, and her car was towed from the scene. She was wearing her seat belt, according to the police report.
The accident was reported at 9:49 pm. Newtown Police Officer Mathew Pirhalla was the primary officer on the case. Ms Brewer was issued a verbal warning for violation of CGS 14-242, restricted turn.
Newtown Police, Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps and an on-call paramedic, and Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue were all dispatched to the accident scene.
Resident Cheryl Mammen encountered the young men, and the accident, on August 28. In a post to the Facebook group Newtown Neighbors Unite a short time later, Ms Mammen said that “some parents out there should be proud.”
She mentioned the accident, and seeing “some college-aged guys coming out of the woods.” After asking them if they needed help, Ms Mammen wrote, “they said a woman had crashed in the woods.
“These five guys did everything right and handled themselves so well,” her post continued. “Very impressive that they knew what to ask and what to do.”