July Fourth crash victim dies, investigation continues

July Fourth crash victim dies, investigation continues

by -
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

A Fourth of July outing for a New Hampshire family with strong Martha’s Vineyard ties and their guest, a 21-year-old college student, turned tragic on a day when most residents and visitors were enjoying hot, steamy weather and looking forward to holiday activities.

Heather LaFlamme of Berlin, New Hampshire, died Saturday at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston from injuries sustained in a two-car crash last Wednesday afternoon.

Ms. LaFlamme was a rear seat passenger in a 2012 Jeep Wrangler that was broadsided by a 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan on Barnes Road near the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Business Park about 2 pm.

She was traveling with her boyfriend, Seth Jones, 26, also seated in the rear, and his parents Thomas C, Jones, 51, and Margaret Jones, 51, all of Dummer, New Hampshire.

Ms. LaFlamme, Seth Jones and Margaret Jones were transferred by MedFlight from Martha’s Vineyard Hospital to Boston-area hospitals with serious injuries following the crash.

Seth Jones remains at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. A spokesman said Wednesday his condition had changed from critical to serious.

Margaret Jones also remains at Beth Israel. Her condition was listed as good.

The Jeep’s driver, Thomas Jones, was transported by ambulance to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and released on 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 and released.

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 are investigating to determine whether criminal charges and civil motor vehicle citations are warranted, police said.

Yesterday, police had no updates. Assistant district attorney Michael Trudeau said his office was waiting for the police reports. Once those were completed, he said, they would be assessed and with respect to any charges.

State Police said that a preliminary investigation indicates that the Jeep — a model that has its steering wheel on the right side — was traveling northbound on Barnes Road 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 traveling northbound on Barnes Road. 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 just about the time parade-goers were making their way to Edgartown. Police closed off the road between the Blinker intersection and the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road until the evening. Most of that section of roadway, also known as Airport Road, is flat and straight and has a posted speed limit of 45 miles per hour.

As police and rescue personnel arrived they attended to the injured. Rescuers needed special equipment to extricate Mrs. Jones from the Jeep.

Like an explosion

Thomas Jones met his wife Margaret, the daughter of Frank Vieara of Edgartown, on Martha’s Vineyard, where his family had vacationed when he was young. Their son Seth was born on the Island.

“We had rented a house in Island Grove and arrived Saturday,” Don Antonelli of Warwick, Rhode Island, the brother-in-law of Mr. Jones, told The Times in a telephone conversation Monday. Seth had invited his girlfriend, Ms. LaFlamme, a dean’s list student entering her senior year at the University of New Hampshire, to join the family on their annual summer trip to the Vineyard.

Mr. Jones and his son share a military bond. Mr. Jones served in the Army, his son served in the Marines. Following his discharge, Seth, who served two tours in Iraq and one tour in Afghanistan, went to school to learn welding. He currently works as a welder at the Portsmouth Naval shipyard, his uncle said.

The day began normally. “We found out that they (Mr. Jones and Seth) had their names engraved on a veterans’ memorial in Vineyard Haven,” Mr. Antonelli said. “So we were taking a ride to check it out.”

Mr. Jones lead the way in the Jeep. Mr. Antonelli, his wife, Linda, the sister of Margaret Jones, and his nephew Alex Jones, 19, Seth’s younger brother, and a friend followed in another vehicle. They stopped to get gas at the Mobil gas station.

Tom Jones pulled out in the Jeep and took a left toward Vineyard Haven. Mr. Antonelli said his wife waited to pull out as the VW sped by. “We pulled out to follow Peggy and Tom and as we pulled out it was like there was an explosion. The kid hit them and the Jeep was slipping and spinning in the air.”

Life changing

“I went directly to Seth because that was the first person I saw laying on the ground,” Mr. Antonelli said. “I didn’t know how bad of shape he was in, I’m not medically trained, but I knew to try and keep him conscious. So I was yelling at him, but he was bleeding from the mouth and his eyes kept rolling back in his head more and more. And there was another man with me and we were trying to call the police and neither of us knew what to do, but then this woman just showed up and knelt down next to me.”

The woman was Dr. Deborah E. Rudin. She instructed Mr. Antonelli on how to keep his nephew conscious by rubbing a knuckle into his chest.

Dr. Rudin, a specialist in infectious diseases associated with NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia Hospital, and her husband, Steve Verp, were in a taxi on their way to catch a plane back to New York following a brief holiday visit when they arrived just moments after the accident and saw crumpled vehicles, strewn car parts, and the injured passengers on the ground.

“As we pulled up there was really nobody there except the brother-in-law,” Ms. Rudin told The Times in a telephone call Monday. “The driver of the black Tiguan had gotten out of the car and was just hysterical. He was pulling his shirt up over his head and covering his head and screaming.”

Dr. Rudin ran over to the first injured person she saw, Seth Jones. She began checking his vital signs. “I just kept calling him buddy and told the guy who was there to rub his sternum, which is a technique we use in the emergency room, just trying to keep him as awake as you can. And to keep his hand on his carotid pulse and shout out if he lost the pulse because then we would have to do CPR. And at that moment someone else who was a non-medical person said, ‘I think there’s someone in the woods.'”

Dr. Rudin was the first person at the side of Ms. LaFlamme, who lay crumpled in the woods, after being ejected from the Jeep. Dr. Rudin said it was immediately obvious that the young woman’s injuries were severe. She did her best to assist Ms. LaFlamme.

“It seemed like forever, but it was probably five minutes before EMTs got there,” Dr. Rudin said. She began shouting her medical assessments of Seth Jones and Ms. LaFlamme to EMTs. It was, she said, as if she were in an emergency room setting.

Dr. Rudin, 50, identified herself as a doctor. She said the EMTs provided her with gloves and were very responsive to everything she said. “I guess people just help each other when it’s a major emergency,” she said.

Dr. Rudin said she has experienced the worst trauma one can encounter in a New York City emergency room or critical care setting. But 24 hours later and home in New Jersey she said she was struck by the sadness of the accident. “She’s 21 years old,” she said of Ms. LaFlamme.

Dr. Rudin said she and her husband had gone away for four days. They had a plane to catch. “For 30 seconds I thought, oh my God I’m going to miss my plane and then I thought, there’ll be another plane, this person could die,” she said. “That’s what happened and I jumped out.”

Until he was contacted by The Times, Mr. Antonelli did not know who Dr. Rudin was or that she was even a doctor. “She changed my life,” Mr. Antonelli said. “I’m the type of person, I mind my own business and don’t help people. Now, I’ll never drive by an accident again if there’re no paramedics or anything there. As soon as we’re done spending time at the hospital the first thing me and Linda are going to do is take a first aid course so we know how to help people.”

Mr. Antonelli described the Island response, from the accident scene to the hospital, as “incredible.” He said his family is grateful for the care and kindness.

Ms. LaFlamme was majoring in recreational management policy and was completing an internship at Mountain View Grand Resort in Whitefield, N.H., at the time of her death. A funeral service is scheduled for Saturday, July 14, at St. Anne Church of Good Shepherd Parish in Berlin.

Arrangements are under the care of the Fleury-Patry Funeral Home (fleury-patry.com).


  1. If the steering wheel is on the right side it is on the wronggggg side.

    Truly a sad story. I feel for the family of the victims.

    1. The steering wheel was on that side because Peggy is the mail person in her town. It is not as if they decided to whilly nilly order a car with the steering wheel on the right to be different. It was not a new concept for the family to drive that way. People really need to get over this steering wheel issue. Lets not forget the speed of the other vehicle, there were MANY factors

  2. It is frightening how quickly your life can change, this is just tragic all the way around..

  3. “I just kept calling him buddy and told the guy who was there to rub his sternum, which is a technique we use in the emergency room….” the guy who rubbed his sternum and helped keep Seth awake was my brother-in-law, a medical student from Boston.. I believed his worked saved Seth’s life.. I’m proud of what he and Dr. Rudin did under very difficult circumstances. God Bless

    1. Matthew – I am sorry to say that you have been misinformed, we were the first people on scene, since we were following them to Vineyard Haven. Seth’s Uncle was the first to his side and tried to keep him conscious, then Dr. Rudin luckily showed up and showed Seth’s Uncle, Don, what to do to keep him conscious. After making sure he was doing it right, Dr. Rudin moved on to help Heather.
      I would just like to give credit where credit is due.

      1. no matter who was there and did what people put there lifes on hold to help save others lives so its not really up for discusion on who deserves more credit thay are all equly credited

      2. Was this comment necessary? It really should not be about giving credit to this person or that. Its like saying you were the final person to cross the finish line in a relay race thus deserve the credit for winning.

        1. I knew my comment was going to get people upset, but yes, I think that the comment was necessary. I just think that it’s slimy for some student to say he may have saved Seth’s life when he had nothing to do with it!! It was weird reading that story & knowing it wasn’t true. I just couldn’t keep quiet.

          1. I don’t think your comment was inappropriate at all, Linda. News stories are “on the record,” and whether or not the comments are archived, Mr. Richard’s comment appears appended to the news story and attempts to alter the facts to insert himself in a role which it seems he did not play. Linda: on the bright side, I think the story itself supports your version of events and actors very clearly.

      3. Linda, Why the U-turn? Why did they pull off and suddenly decide to pull a u-turn in front of another oncoming vehicle? I have heard that the parents were arguing about the direction they were traveling and that is why there was the sudden pull to the side of the road and then a u-turn into oncoming traffic. Just trying to clear up the rumors, thanks.

        1. How could you (or anyone else) possibly know if the parents (the Joneses) were arguing about directions unless you were with them in the Jeep?

          1. I don’t know, that is why i asked. But i have heard a few people saying a few (not nice) things and instead of assuming, i think that people should know the facts before they spread rumors.

        2. They turned because the car that was following them was no longer behind them and they were concerned and were turning to find them. If you knew the Jones family you would know how ridiculous that question is they don’t argue. Tom & Peggy are the most calm people you would ever meet. Tom is also a responsible driver (most of the time he is being passed around here because he is so careful) he would never intentionally put his families life in danger or the public for that matter. Whether or not you want to think he was at fault I know that the whole time my oldest son was growing up he spent alot of time with the Jones’ and even went to the Vineyard with them twice, never did I ever feel worry or fear. Because of the wonderful, compassionate, responsible people they are. Our community just doesn’t feel the same without them here, we all love them and miss them.

          1. Thanks for clearing that up and next time i hear someone telling people otherwise, i will be sure to clear the record. I live, work and am around this community everyday. It’s upsetting to hear all the stories when your out in public. i’d rather ask a source. thanks!

  4. “‘The driver of the black Tiguan had gotten out of the car and was just
    hysterical. He was pulling his shirt up over his head and covering his
    head and screaming.'”

    I understand how it might be tempting to give in to hysterics when you realize you have just been responsible for badly hurting other people. But it also seems like this is the most self-centered and selfish response you could possibly have. Standing there and crying because you know you’re about to be in bad trouble instead of trying to help the victims of your actions? Really??

  5. Since this incident has happened, i have had a few occasions where a
    vehicle has pulled off the road in front of me and then proceeded to
    pull a U-turn right in front of my vehicle. The worst for it to happen is right along State beach, but this one was last week, on
    Edgartown Rd, in Vineyard Haven, just after Norton Farm. Had his
    blinker on to pull to the right side of the road, i slowed down to allow
    space for them to pull off, they pulled off the road only to allow
    themselves more space for a complete turn around right in front of my
    vehicle. The speed limit there is 45mph, i slowed to about 38 or so as i
    already had a good distance when they originally put their blinker on.
    Once they were off the road way, i was in the process of accelerating
    back to the speed limit, as they went and pulled in front of me. This
    story has been on my mind since it has happened and I’m afraid each and
    every time a person puts their blinker on to pull off to the side of the
    road, which thankfully had me prepared to slam on my brakes. I would have smashed right into that Rav-4 if I had not been thinking of this tragedy and my 2 young children were also in the backseat of my vehicle. I think that every time that someone decides to pull a U-turn onto a public roadway as some of the ones we have here, i will think of this story. There is a proper way of turning around and pulling a U-turn in a 45 mph roadway is NOT one of them. There is just such a sadness when things like this happens on this Island. So many feelings and questions of what if, or why not… Was Ms. LaFlamme wearing her seatbelt? If she wasn’t, it sounds like in this case, it would have saved her life. Don’t let tragic things like this happen and then get brushed off and forgotten. This unfortunate event can save other lives, i feel as if it already possibly has, since my incident could have ended much worse than it did last week. My heart goes so far out to Ms. LaFlamme’s family. I could not even imagine saying good-bye to my daughter so she can family vacation with her boyfriend, and not know that that would be the last time we say good-bye.

  6. I did not know Heather personally but she seemed to be the type of people I would have loved to know, God rest her soul. I do however know Tom as I trained with him for many years in the Army National Guard. I wanted to say alittle something as I read the posted comments…. To all those who stopped and selflessly helped (and they know who they are) it was by your actions, and direction that Seth, Tom and Peggy are still with us today. For the LaFlamme family and all Heathers friends, my heart goes out to you all. My heart also goes out to Seth, Tom and Peggy (they too lost someone who was special to there family), My heart also goes out to those that had to witness this tragic event that took place. For these people (the Jones family and the LaFlamme family especially), this all happened at a place where the Jones family vacations were spent and during a time, (the fourth of July), a patriotic time I am sure is dear to Tom and Seths hearts (considering they both served in the armed forces), this holiday (i’m sure) will never be the same or enjoyed like previous years. My thoughts and prayers go out to you all. And some may agree and others may disagree, but the young man that hit the Jones vehicle, I don’t believe he was on a mission that day to purposely crash into a random family on vacation (considering the reaction he had from witnesses at the scene). To those who are upset about this young boys reaction I say this to you, sadness and anger generally causes people who are close to those in such a tragic event such as this one , to point fingers and or blame, This causes us to say things that otherwise we would not say. it is understandable but just put your self in that young mans shoes for just one minute and try and remember that time you were texting a friend while driving and had to swerve back into your lane because you drifted into the other lane, or you were tryng to find a song on the ipod and you took your eyes off the road and had to swerve back into your lane, or you were trying to find a radio station, or you were chatting with a friend in the passenger seat not really paying attention to your surroundings and again looked in front of you and someone or something had come into your path, or you were exceding the speed limit because you were late for what ever the reason, and you barely missed disaster? We all have done it, but we were fortunate enough that disaster didn’t happen. A young girls life was lost that day, three people were injured seriously, and all involved, there lives were changed forever and he, the young driver who hit the Jones vehicle wasn’t hurt more seriously, I strongly feel his reaction of being hysterical cannot be justified from any one. We do not know what he witnessed during the impact (we can only imagine), so to judge how he should have or shouldn’t have reacted is plain vane. Until all the facts are presented judging this young man is way premature. He too, as well as his family and friends will never be the same either. This young man has to go through life knowing that Heather LaFlammes life was taken in this accident (a name to match the one whos life was taken that day) and he was involved, possible 100% at fault, possible partially at fault, but non the less knowing he was at fault in some way. my thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family as well. Again, may God be with the Jones family and the LaFlamme family and this young man and his family and all those who witnessed this tragic accident during this sad time.

  7. Regardless of credit — Three families lives have changed forever — The LaFlamme family loss a daughter; The Jones family was almost wiped out and the inexperienced 19 old yr driver Ben Johnson, will have to live the rest of his life knowing his actions killed one person and criticial injured two, that is a heavy burden — Again, God Bless to the families and sympathy to the LaFlamme Family—

    1. It was not the 19 year old’s fault. The other vehicle did a U-turn right in front of him, in all likelihood he just didn’t have enough time to stop. He would only be at fault in this scenario if he were speeding, which has yet to be determined.

      1. In my comment where did it read that it was his fault, nowhere. If you read my comment correctly, you would have noticed that I commented on his inexperience of driving and the consequences, regardless of who hit whom. This is to all drivers while texting, talking, changing the radio channel etc you need to be aware of your soundings!

        1. I think what Andrea is trying to get at is that you said HIS actions killed one person. How was it his fault if someone pulls a U-turn in front of him? Was he texting or playing with the radio? I seemed to miss that information somewhere.

          1. I agree with Andrea and bebe627. There is a tone in these posts which presume the 19 y.o. Is at fault. Undoubtedly not independent readers. Let’s all agree this is a horrible story and pray for all 5 involved.

          2. There is no tone just facts, I am not saying who is at fault but the article states that Ben hit the Jeep. Regardless, of anything he is a 19 yrs old and probably has had his license for maybe 2 yrs, so inexperience does play a part in this accident. Three families and their lives have forever changed. The LaFlamme family loss their 21 yr old daughter and the Jones family was just about wiped out by this accident. And think about this the 19 yr brother was a passenger in his uncle’s car and he saw his family injuried. Do you have any thought of the horror that 19 yrs old saw and will have to bear knowing his parents and older brother were almost killed. It is serious accident, you all can go on about the tone of these posts but the facts are the facts.

          3. Yes, I have read several accounts that indicate the VW driver was going insanely fast. I’m still confused as to whether the Jeep was pulling out of the Mobil station, or doing a U-turn? If the VW driver was going the speed limit, he should have had time to swerve to avoid, and the Jeep would NOT have gone flying through the air on impact. As far as the u-turn is concerned, one can look carefully both ways and NOT see a vehicle coming if said vehicle is going 90 miles an hour. My thoughts and prayers remain with all involved. Alec I am sorry you witnessed this horrific accident. I just saw the update on your brother and my God, I am so sorry.

          4. Jeep pulled out of mobil to go towards Blinking light. VW was behind it. That’s why the other car waiting to pull out onto Barnes. Jeep put on it’s blinker to pull over to the right side of the road when they realized the car that was supposed to be following it wasn’t, then proceeded to pull a U-turn to turn around. It’s such a sad event and it seems each year something tragic happens on this Island. So sorry for all those family members who are suffering. Prayers to all of you!

          5. Ooooh, okay. Thank you for explaining it to me. I read the Vineyard Gazette description which mentioned turning out from the Mobil, then kept reading about the U-turn, and I couldn’t visualize exactly how things went down.

            Those poor families, my heart breaks for them. Out for a nice drive with loved ones, and bam, in an instant, their lives are changed.

            Love and prayers to the Jones and LaFlamme families.

          6. Dear Alec I am sorry for your loss — Speed is the fact — I know your Aunt. Take care and God Bless!

  8. I just read in Vineyard Gazette Online that Seth Jones passed away early Tuesday evening at Beth Israel Hospital. They took him off life support, and he was surrounded by his family.

  9. Linda – I am not trying to take credit for anything. I wasnt misinformed – I was there. my brother in law stayed with Seth when the other woman went into the trees to assist Heather. Don was with Seth yelling “hang in there” while my brother in law rubbed seths chest and kept checking his pulse. You came over and said “he just got back from Iraq, dont let him die”. I saw Seth moaning, I saw him start to choke on his own blood, I watched as my brother in law rubbed his chest and Seth began to cough up blood, and his eyes were rolling in his head….You think I want to live with that vision in my head? No I dont.. but I was there trying to help, moving cars out of the way, directing the ambulance to Seth, and searching the trees for any other victims… We could have sat in our cars and watched like many others, but didnt. I was the one who went to you and told you that 3 other family members were at the scene, Im the one who told your family to go meet you at the hospital and that you were riding in the ambulance with one of the people in the crash… but instead of thanking us for assisting, trying to save their lives, and for praying for your family… you come on here and attack me? thats pathetic. I wasnt misinformed, I was there.. and saw it with my own eyes. God is my judge, not you. I continue to pray for those involved, and now I will say a few prayers for you too Linda

  10. For all of the folks that have been following this sad event, The Jones Family lost there son Seth from injuries sustained in this accident in addition to Heather Laflamme (the young lady that was in the jeep with them). Please keep praying for the Jones family and the Laflamme family (especially Tom Jones) Seths father, to lose someone in the vehicle you were driving is hard enough but to lose one of your own kids, I just cant imagine.
    Also, please keep in prayer the young man in the VW and his family, as there lives are forever changed as well. For this young man to have to go through life knowing that two young lives were lost, and from what I am reading (speed was a big factor), is going to be a nightmare he is going to have to live and re-live every day of his life as is the case for all those that were in the midst of this accident. Seth and Heather will be missed. May God comfort all those hearts that were broken on that sad day, July 4, 2012.

  11. I have been in an accident, though it was not an extreme one. I have
    been in bad situations before, too. I have been shaken and yet still
    told myself, “It’s not okay for me to lose control of myself here and now. I am not
    the important one here right now.” My comment reflected my reaction to
    reading the doctor’s statement about what she saw, and my understanding
    of the accident as it has been reported here and elsewhere. I think I am
    entitled to have my reaction, and I bet other people thought the same
    thing when they read what the doctor said. There is being shaken and
    confused, and then there is standing in the road, while people are hurt
    and dying, pulling your shirt over your head and wailing. Sorry if you
    think it’s cruel, but if you’re enough of an adult to drive, you should
    be enough of one to be able to master yourself to a basic level.

  12. one never knows how they will handle shock. I recall a roll-over wreck and the driver was only concenred that his new leather jacket was ruined by scrape marks & gasoline.

  13. I can see how the Tiguan driver would be in a fit of disbelief if as reported someone did a u turn right in front of him. They dont teach that in drivers Ed. However they do teach you to stay 5 or 6 car lengthes behind the person in front of you in case of a sudden stop.

  14. I think that’s a fair observation. I can see both sides of the issue. I am glad the Tiguan’s driver is all right. I wish everyone involved were all right.

  15. I was probably too quick to judge. I am sure the investigators will eventually release a report assigning blame. When I read this article, I reacted based on how it framed the incident and the people involved. As objective as I usually find MVTimes reporting, of course the Tiguan driver’s story is not given in this article, so it’s too soon to assign blame. Indeed, I am always cautious about u-turns on this island–there often isn’t much room on the shoulder to get yourself safely positioned so you can see both directions of traffic. It usually makes more sense to just keep going until you get to a place where you can make a turn onto a side road or driveway. I wonder if the Jeep made a u-turn because its driver was trying not to “lose” the car following it?