Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Car crashes into roof of Marlborough home
By Kathy Uek / News Staff Writer
Monday, July 5, 2004
MARLBOROUGH -- Scott Penney wasn't expecting any fireworks for his cookout yesterday, so when we heard a bang, he went out to the street to investigate.

"I came (around) the house to the street, I saw nothing until I turned around," said Penney. "Then I saw a car in the middle of my roof."

A beige 1992 Ford Taurus, driven by Shirley Elder, was on top of the house.

The two-family home at 65 Cullinane Drive, owned by William Reynolds of Hudson, overlooks Fort Meadow Reservoir from the front. At the back, it sits below a parking area. That parking area is about level with the home's roof.

Elder, who faces no charges, was visiting family in the area, witnesses said. At about 1 p.m., her car, which was on the street above the house, drove straight back and went airborne between the parking lot and the house, a distance of roughly six feet.

"I'm shaking more now than when it happened. The car could have come through my house," Penney said.

Penney has been a tenant in the downstairs apartment for almost two years.

The upstairs tenant, Tu Yen Trinh, was in Las Vegas for the weekend, neighbors say. No matter how Trinh fares in Vegas, she was lucky to be there instead of home.

Penney's girlfriend, Laurie Letarte, was inside the house.

"I heard the crash and knew the house had been hit," said Letarte. "I was shocked when I saw it."

George Blanchard III from Concord was enjoying some leisurely afternoon fishing on Fort Meadow Reservoir when he heard the crash.

"I heard this big boom and saw a big brown cloud of dirt coming out of the house," said Blanchard. "I assumed someone had gone over the edge of the parking lot. I couldn't figure out why someone was yelling to get out of the house. I didn't see what had happened until we came up to the street."

"It's a horrible accident, but no one was hurt," said Reynolds. "The car didn't go through the ceiling."

Marlborough Police Officer David Garceau said the car came to rest on a supporting wall.

"She thought she had her foot on the brake and hit the gas," he said. "The car quickly accelerated, went into a 180-degree turn, launched over the wall and backed into the house."

Jeremy Cardin, who lives on neighboring Pembroke Street, saw the accident while he was walking on Cullinane Drive.

"The (driver) had parked her car across the street, cut her wheel, backed up and stepped on the gas," said Cardin. "It was just like a catcher's mitt as she hit the roof. She went right between two parked cars and there wasn't even a scratch on them."

When police and fire personnel arrived, firefighters climbed up a ladder and got Elder out of the car.

"I was happy to see she was unhurt. They assisted her out of the car and she climbed down the ladder," said Cardin.

"I watched the fireman get her out of the car," added Penney. "She was pretty calm. They did a good job. Right now I'm shaking like a leaf."

Elder, who is in her 70s, was alone in the car. She refused medical treatment.

"My greatest concern is getting the car out of the house with minimum damage," said Garceau. "No one was hurt and no citations will be issued.It was human error."

Diane Smith, who was visiting her brother, was also concerned.

"People over 70 or 65 shouldn't drive," said Smith, a Holden resident.

Wally Powers from Massachusetts Electric, had a birds-eye view of the car from his aerial lift truck when he arrived to disconnect service to the house.

"I've never seen anything like this. This will be a Fourth of July she won't forget," said Powers.

A representative from NStar also came to disconnect power in the house, according to Powers. "They don't know if the car is sitting on wires," he said.

Marlborough Crane Inc. from Newton soon arrived to hook up a crane to the car and lift it off the roof. Precision Auto Body from Marlborough towed the car away.

While emergency personnel were still at the scene, friends began to arrive for Penney's barbecue.

"I told you there would be fireworks," he told his guests.

It was the second time this weekend a car smashed into a building in Marlborough.

"It's been a weird weekend," Fire Capt. Ron Ayotte said yesterday.

A 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass driven by an Ashland woman crashed into the administrative offices at Fire Department headquarters Saturday.

"It's funny. We've had drive-in medical (calls) before with people with medical emergencies that pull up to the station. We've never had a drive-up accident," Ayotte said Saturday after the firehouse mishap.

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