BARRE – A Worcester man has been charged following the death of local mechanic Michael Stone in a crash in November.
Jonathan Townsend, 44, pleaded not guilty Thursday in Washington County criminal court in Barre to a felony count of gross negligent vehicle operation with death resulting. If convicted, Townsend faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. He was released on conditions.
Sgt. Paul Thayer, of the Barre Town police, said in his affidavit a two-car crash was reported on East Barre Road Nov. 9. While heading to the scene Thayer said he was told by dispatch one of the drivers, later identified as Stone, had died.
Thayer said Townsend was driving a 2013 Ford F-350 which was pulling a homemade, unregistered trailer that had a small tractor on it. Stone was driving a 2008 Chevrolet Suburban, according to court records.
Townsend told Thayer he picked up the tractor at a family member’s home and he hooked the trailer to the truck himself. He told Thayer he was driving when he heard a loud crash behind him. Thayer said Townsend told him he realized the trailer had detached. Thayer said the tractor was found upside down in the road near Stone’s vehicle, which was sideways.
Townsend told Thayer he attached the trailer to the truck via two chains and a strap. Thayer said those connections broke while Townsend was driving.
Thayer said an investigation of the crash showed the trailer detached and hit Stone’s vehicle head-on. He said the force from the crash caused the tractor to fly off of the trailer and land in the roadway.
A witness at the scene told Thayer she overheard Townsend say he didn’t hook up the trailer properly.
Thayer said an autopsy showed Stone died due to blunt impact to his head as result of the crash.
He said he spoke to a mechanic who reported the trailer was in such bad shape that it wouldn’t pass inspection and should have never been on the road.
Stone was the owner of Stone’s Service Station on Washington Street in Barre, a business he bought in October 1985. Stone was known throughout the community for being a strong family man and deeply devoted to his customers, neighbors and friends over many years.
After his death Michael Stone’s brother Tim said he was always close to his brother and his unexpected death was a terrible loss.
“He was an outstanding citizen, and he loved America,” Tim Stone said. “He was a great family man, a great businessman. He always went out of his way for anyone.”