WESTERLY — A police investigation into an Aug. 28 crash that injured an 82-year-old woman at the town's transfer station has found no evidence of negligence or wrongdoing either by the woman or the driver of a front end loader that backed into her car.
Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey said Thursday that the department had reviewed video from cameras mounted on the loader and had "talked with witnesses and looked at it from all angles. This really is an example of something that truly was an accident. There is nothing to indicate fault or improper operation by either the victim or employee."
The accident has now been referred to the state's Department of Labor and Training for further review as it is considered a workplace-based accident.
After the crash, officers, firefighters and ambulance personnel responded to the Westerly Transfer Station on Larry Hirsch Lane around 2:15 p.m. The police said that Russell Leblanc, 67, a veteran machine operator, was working in the area to the right of the weigh station and was using a Volvo loader to move an air conditioning unit. He had placed the AC unit in its collection spot as the woman, Elizabeth Smith, of Westerly, drove behind the loader and parked, intending to remove items from her trunk.
Lacey said the operator didn't see the woman's car, a Toyota Corolla, and backed up as she was approaching the trunk on foot, striking the rear passenger side window and pushing the car several feet. The impact caused the car to strike the woman and knock her below the bumper.
The impact of the crash left her stuck about halfway underneath the rear driver's side quarter panel, but she was not run over and Lacey said she was freed by a second town employee and customer who helped remove the car so she could receive help.
Smith suffered multiple injuries but officials said those injuries, fortunately, were not as serious as first thought. She was taken to Rhode Island Hospital and was treated for a broken tibia, as well as lacerations and bruises. Officials said she has been released and is receiving rehabilitation services.