STONINGTON — Efforts by several officers of the Stonington Police Department helped to locate and stop a wrong way driver, an 80-year-old man, on Interstate 95 late Saturday night.
Stonington patrols responded to I-95 North around 11:30 p.m. after receiving reports from Groton fire dispatchers that callers had reported a driver traveling south in the northbound high-speed lane. Stonington Police Capt. Todd Olson said a Stonington dispatcher immediately coordinated a response, which he said allowed the agency to address the issue quickly and prevent a potential crash.
"I am very grateful and proud of our dispatcher, sergeant and officers that performed flawlessly in this very dangerous and unfortunate incident," Olson said in a press release.
According to Stonington police, dispatcher William Palmer notified multiple units of a wrong-way driver that had entered the highway from an off-ramp at Exit 93. The police said several posts were established along the highway which were manned by Sgt. Timothy Marley, and officers Britton Friend, Ryan Rodgers and Nicholas Long.
Officer Friend, who was maintaining a post at exit 91, saw the wrong-way driver in a car with one headlight. He was able to use his emergency lights to pull over the driver without issue approximately a tenth of a mile south of the exit. He was then assisted in the response by Marley, Rodgers and Long.
"Fortunately, there were only two vehicles northbound and were already yielding to the breakdown lane when Officer Friend turned to catch the vehicle," Olson said.
Olson said the driver, who was not identified, had a valid registration but was traveling with a suspended license. He told the police he was driving back to Norwalk and had gotten confused, leading to him entering the highway in the wrong direction.
Connecticut State Police Troop E troopers then arrived on scene and took over the investigation. A message seeking further details including the driver's name and charges was not returned.
Wrong way drivers have been an issue along I-95 in Stonington over the past several years. On Wednesday, Olson said that Officer Herbert Barrell stopped a older man he witnessed enter an off-ramp from I-95 North and begin driving south along the ramp. Barrell was able to stop him before he entered the highway and police determined that the man's confusion was caused by a likely medical issue. He was taken to a nearby hospital.
Three Rhode Island residents were killed in October and three others injured when a 17-year-old girl from Westerly got on the wrong way at exit 93 and crashed head-on with a car driven by a Warwick resident.
Two people were also killed in March 2019 when a police investigation determined that a man from Bristol, Conn., drove south in the northbound lanes and caused a four-vehicle crash. The crash killed the man and another driver.
In December 2018, a man from Groton was heading north in the southbound lanes in Stonington and struck a car driven by a woman from Brockton. That crash killed a front-seat passenger in each vehicle.