SUV Drives Off Route 34 Into Ravine: Three Injured, Investigation Continuing

Police continue to investigate a serious motor vehicle accident that occurred late on the night of Saturday, June 21, in which a SUV carrying three 24-year-old women, while traveling eastward on Berkshire Road (Route 34) near the Monroe town line, drove off the right road shoulder and then went down a ravine, striking several trees before coming to rest near a stream.

The intense impacts of the multiple rollover accident resulted in serious injuries to two of the three occupants of the heavily damaged 2011 Audi Q-5 SUV, a compact crossover-style vehicle, officials said.

As of midweek, police had yet to conduct interviews with the three victims of the crash.

Police said it is unclear who was driving the Audi when the accident occurred, but confirmed that the vehicle’s registered owner, Carissa Russo of Bethel, was one of its occupants.

The other occupants were Nina Leventon and Lindsay Hornyak, both of Danbury, police said.

Hornyak was in critical condition in Yale-New Haven Hospital on the morning of June 26, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Russo and Leventon both had been discharged from St Vincent’s Hospital in Bridgeport, a hospital spokeswoman said late on the afternoon of June 25. No additional information was available from the hospital.

Multiple emergency service units from Newtown and Monroe responded to the Route 34 accident scene, as did state police who provided an accident reconstruction team to gather evidence in investigating the crash.

A section of Route 34 near the accident was closed to through-traffic for about six hours as police collected evidence. Motorists were detoured onto other roads in that area, including Jordan Hill, Old Zoar and Route 111.

The SUV had come to rest down a steep embankment, about 42 vertical feet below the level of Route 34.

Newtown Police Sgt Steven Santucci said police will be interviewing the three women involved in the accident when it becomes possible to do so. Also, the SUV, which was severely damaged in the accident, will be inspected as part of the police probe, he said.

Sandy Hook Fire & Rescue Chief Bill Halstead said that Sandy Hook and Stevenson firefighters participated in the rescue effort to lift the three women up the steep embankment and into waiting ambulances for transport to hospitals.

Firefighters used ropes to go down and up the slope. The slope was so steep that it was nearly vertical, Chief Halstead noted. There were no injuries to the rescuers, he said.

Chief Halstead said the slope was probably the steepest terrain he has encountered in a motor vehicle accident. The chief said that all three women were brought up the slope within a 15-to-20 minute period.

Several dozen emergency responders overall went to the scene of the 11:41 pm emergency call, he said.

The vehicle went off  Route 34 near a turnoff where there is an intentional gap in the flexbeam-style metal guardrailimg.

Sgt Santucci said that the Audi apparently drove straight through that gap adjacent to the turnoff before tumbling down the very steep embankment. Officer Bart Lorancaitis is the lead investigator for Newtown police.

The impacts in the accident resulted in two occupants being ejected from the vehicle, he said. The third person got out of the wreckage under her own power, he said.


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