New Hampshire woman dies from July 4th crash injuries

State Police are investigating whether the placement of the steering wheel on the right side of the Jeep played a role in the accident. — Photo by Steve Myrick

Updated 7:30 pm, Monday

Massachusetts State Police said this afternoon that the young New Hampshire woman critically injured in the July 4 crash on Barnes Road died Saturday of her injuries.

Heather LaFlamme, 21, of Berlin, N.H., who suffered the most severe injuries, died Saturday at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She was a rear seat passenger in 2012 Jeep Wrangler that was broadsided by a 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan, State Police said.

The crash remains under investigation by Massachusetts State Police from the Oak Bluffs Barracks, the State Police Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section, and the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office. The ongoing investigation will determine whether criminal charges and civil motor vehicle citations are warranted, police said.

Three of the injured, all New Hampshire residents, were transferred by MedFlight from Martha’s Vineyard Hospital to Boston-area hospitals with serious injuries following the crash.

The other rear seat passenger in the Jeep, Seth Jones, 26, of Dummer, N.H., remains at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston with serious injuries.

The Jeep’s front seat passenger, Margaret Jones, 51, also of Dummer, N.H., also remains at Beth Israel with serious injuries.

The Jeep’s driver, Thomas C. Jones, 51, of Dummer, N.H., was transported by ambulance to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital with serious injuries. He was released from the hospital Sunday

The operator of the Tiguan sport utility vehicle, Benjamin T. Johnson, 19, of Cambridge, was transported to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital for evaluation of possible injuries. He has been released.

State Police said that a preliminary investigation indicates that the Jeep — a model that has its steering wheel on the right side — was travelling southbound on Barnes Road Extension when it pulled onto the right shoulder of the road.

“The Jeep then began to turn left, beginning an apparent U-turn. At that time, it was broadsided by the front of the Tiguan, which was also travelling southbound on the Barnes Road Extension. The collision caused the Jeep to roll over and the Tiguan to veer off the left side of the road.”

The accident occurred just north of the entrance to the Mobil Gas Station at the entrance to the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Business Park, as Island residents and visitors celebrated the Fourth of July on a sunny, hot and humid day.

Island police, fire, and rescue personnel rushed to the scene. Just about the time parade goers were making their way to Edgartown, police closed off Barnes Road between the Blinker intersection and the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road.

Rescue personnel searched nearby woods for one victim who was ejected from the Jeep in the crash, a witness reported. Rescuers needed special equipment to extricate another victim from a vehicle.

The State Police Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section arrived by plane that afternoon to begin an investigation into the causes of the accident. Troopers from the State Police Crime Scene Services and Cape and Islands Detective Unit are assisting troopers from the Oak Bluffs State Police Barracks and Edgartown Police with the investigation, according to a press release.

“Among the potential factors we are investigating are the speed of the Tiguan, and whether the right-side placement of the Jeep’s steering wheel affected the driver’s vision in taking a U-turn to his left,” State Police spokesman David Procopio said. “No determination has yet been made as to whether these factors contributed to the crash. We continue to analyze physical evidence and witness statements. No further information is being released at this time.”