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State Police: Antwerp summer tragedy probe wrapping up

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A state police panel of accident reconstruction experts will conclude this month its review of the July 19 fiery crash in which six people were killed on Route 11 in the town of Antwerp, the Oneida Troop D spokesman said Tuesday.

The panel’s report is expected to be released at the end of January, Trooper Jack L. Keller said.

The Jefferson County district attorney’s office and the state police Bureau of Criminal Investigation has been awaiting a report from the accident reconstruction unit at Oneida to determine possible charges against the truck driver who caused the crash, James A. Mills Jr., 45, Myerstown, Pa. An investigator attributed Mr. Mills’s driver inattention as a cause of the tragedy.

Trooper Keller said the Oneida unit completed its investigation, but “because of the level of severity in the accident,” a panel of accident reconstruction experts from around the state convened in Albany to review Oneida’s determinations.

The chain-reaction crash occurred shortly after 9 that Thursday morning at a highway repaving project just south of Fox Ranch Road. A line of southbound vehicles was stopped at the site, where Barrett Paving of Watertown, under contract with the state Department of Transportation, was doing the work.

The skidding tractor-trailer driven by Mr. Mills crashed into the rear of a car, setting off a chain reaction that involved a state DOT pickup, a 2004 Toyota RAV4 and two other trucks at the front of the line. Killed were Janet P. Dana, 69; Laurie A. Dana, 42; Caitlyn O. Dana, 14; Lauryn E. Dana, 11; Shannon M. Planty, 14; and Maryann D. Gregory, 59.

The occupant of the DOT truck, Lewis L. Lottie Jr., is recovering from serious injuries he suffered.

Among issues likely reviewed by the Albany panel is whether there were sufficient signs placed by DOT or Barrett Paving to alert motorists that they were approaching a work project.

The signs had been approved by DOT personnel before the crash and “conformed to DOT standards,” a state police investigator said in July.

Meanwhile, Oneida’s accident reconstruction unit is involved in another Jefferson County fatality. An investigator at Lowville said filing of charges is pending completion of a probe into the Dec. 29 morning accident on Route 26 in the town of LeRay in which two women, Laurie DeShane, 43, Harrisville, and Kendra DeShane, 20, Castorland, were killed. Police said their westbound auto collided with an out-of-control eastbound vehicle driven by Heather Miller, 17, Carthage.

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