July 4 crash claims another victim, charges filed

Steve Myrick

Updated 6 pm, Wednesday

Seth Jones, 26, of Dummer, New Hampshire, who survived tours in Iraq and Afghanistan while on active duty with the Marines, succumbed, after a two-week battle for his life, to injuries he suffered in a July Fourth two-car crash on Martha’s Vineyard.

Mr. Jones died about 6 pm Tuesday evening in Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, State Police said.

He was the second victim of an afternoon outing that turned tragic during a family vacation on the Island.

State Police will seek charges of vehicular homicide and speeding in connection with the accident.

Heather LaFlamme of Berlin, New Hampshire, died July 7 at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The 21-year-old honors college student, the girlfriend of Mr. Jones, was buried Saturday in New Hampshire.

Ms. LaFlamme and Mr. Jones were rear seat passengers in a 2012 Jeep Wrangler that was broadsided by a 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan on Barnes Road near the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Business Park, at about 2 pm on Wednesday, July 4. Ms. LaFlamme was not wearing a seat belt.

The driver of the Jeep was Mr. Jones’s father, Thomas C. Jones, 51. His mother, Margaret Jones, 51, was seated in the front passenger seat.

The operator of the Tiguan sport utility vehicle was Benjamin T. Johnson, 19, of Cambridge.

Ms. LaFlamme, Seth Jones, and Ms. Jones, the most seriously injured, were transferred by MedFlight to Boston area hospitals. Ms. Jones continues to recover from her injuries.

State Police issued a non-criminal citation on Wednesday to Mr. Johnson for speeding. Police cited Mr. Jones for two counts of misdemeanor vehicular homicide.

Assistant Cape and Islands district attorney Laura Marchard said vehicular homicide is a misdemeanor when it is based on negligence as opposed to when alcohol or drugs plays a role. A conviction carries a loss of license of up to 15 years. Mr. Jones could request a probable cause hearing before a clerk magistrate.

A lawyer representing Mr. Jones, Justin F.X. Kennedy of the Kennedy Law Office in Boston, issued the following statement to The Times Wednesday.

“In this time of tremendous sorrow and grief, the Jones family wishes to express their sincere thanks to The Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and the various state, county, and municipal emergency response personnel on the Island who made valiant efforts to assist their loved ones in their time of need. The many condolences, prayers, and sympathies from the Island community received by the Jones family have not gone unnoticed and are very much appreciated, as well as comforting to the entire family during this most difficult period in their lives.”

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 investigated the accident to determine whether criminal charges and civil motor vehicle citations were warranted.

State Police determined that the Jeep — a model that has its steering wheel on the right side for rural mail delivery — 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 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.

The Jones family are longtime visitors to the Island. 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.

The Times profiled Seth Jones in a December 24, 2009 update on “Islanders in Uniform.” At the time, Cpl. Jones had just completed his third overseas tour, in Afghanistan where he served as a helicopter mechanic, and had returned to Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Following his discharge from the Marines, Seth Jones went to school to learn welding. He was working as a welder at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard at the time of the accident.