Vyto Starinskas / Staff Photo
Emergency personnel walk away from the crushed wreckage of Maxine Thurston’s car after the crash that claimed her life Thursday in Brandon.
BRANDON — An 81-year-old local woman was killed Thursday morning in a head-on collision with a tractor-trailer near Otter Valley Union High School on Route 7.
Maxine Thurston of Brandon was pronounced dead shortly after she was taken to Rutland Regional Medical Center by helicopter.
Brandon Police Chief Christopher Brickell said Thurston was driving a Volvo station wagon north on Route 7 at about 9 a.m. when she swerved into the oncoming lane and collided with a Mack tractor-trailer driven by Paul Johnson, 61, of Oswego, N.Y.
The impact crumpled Thurston’s car and hurled it over a guardrail. It also heavily damaged the front of the tractor-trailer, which remained in the southbound lane at noon.
Johnson, who was uninjured in the crash, said he never had a chance to react.
“She crossed right over the line. It all happened so quick,” said Johnson, who was hauling a trailer back to New York. “When she hit me she spun around. I didn’t see much because I was hanging onto the steering wheel. ... I’m shook up. I’ve never hit anything that hard.”
Assistant Brandon Fire Chief Ron Hubert said rescuers had to cut away the roof of the Volvo to reach Thurston, who was still alive when she was taken from the scene.
“During my time, I’ve seen an extensive amount of bad accidents and this one was right up there,” Hubert said.
The crash took place on a portion of the highway that was recently rebuilt and widened to reduce the chance of crashes like the one that killed Thurston.
But based on the accounts of witnesses, who said Thurston appeared slumped over before the crash, Brickell said it appeared that a medical issue may have caused the crash.
“It could be a medical issue,” he said. “We really have no explanation for the vehicle being where it is.”
The chief said the Volvo also narrowly missed striking another car traveling in front of Johnson’s truck.
A Vermont State Police crash reconstruction team was at the scene Thursday morning, along with commercial vehicle enforcement officers from the Department of Motor Vehicles.
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