BY ANDREW LARSON AND MIKE PATRICK
WATERBURY — State police can’t say yet what caused the accident that killed a 19year-old on Interstate 84 on Wednesday, but the DOT says it wasn’t the water main break that closed a section of the highway.
Within three hours, two emergencies occurred about a mile apart and snarled traffic on I-84 eastbound: a water main break that caused water to leak onto the highway and freeze, and a chain-reaction accident that killed Casey Lynne Giannone of Beacon Falls and seriously injured 18-year-old Alex Matthew Milosevic of Bristol.
Transportation said the water main leak did not contribute to the five-vehicle crash. There was no way the water could have traveled from Harpers Ferry Road, where the city-owned water main was located, to the site of the accident, just east of Exit 23, said Kevin Nursick, a spokesman for the DOT.
“(The crash) was nowhere near the water or ice at that time,” Nursick said.
Joseph Geary, the city’s chief of staff, would only say the water main break is under investigation.
The problems began at about 6:30 p.m., when a water main underneath the bridge carrying Harpers Ferry Road over I-84 started to leak, according to the DOT.
As the leak grew in size, vehicles began tracking water along the travel lanes of I-84 eastbound, past Harpers Ferry Road.
“Water was coming across the main and sheeting across the road, and as cars tracked it down the road it would start to freeze up,” Nursick said.
By 8 p.m., the DOT closed both eastbound lanes, diverting vehicles off the highway at Exit 25, where they bypassed the icy section of highway and took Reidville Drive to the Scott Road entrance ramp. Also, the left highway shoulder was opened to vehicles.
DOT crews placed salt on the slick spots. Meanwhile, traffic backed up on I-84 eastbound, nearly to Exit 23.
At about 9:45 p.m., Giannone was killed and Milosevic seriously injured when their Subaru Legacy was involved in a fiery five-vehicle crash, just past the Exit 23 off-ramp, state police said.
Giannone, who would have turned 20 on Jan. 31, died after the car she was a passenger in was struck from behind in a chain-reaction accident, authorities said.
The driver of the car, Milosevic was seriously injured and transported to Saint Mary’s Hospital, troopers said.
POLICE SAID THE INCIDENT began when a Volvo driven by Jasvir Singh, 30, of Marion, Ind., struck an International 4900 trailer truck driven by 35-year-old Mandeng C. Minor of Massachusetts.
That truck rear-ended a tractor-trailer driven by Winfred A. Spaulding, 42, of Fairfield, Maine, which struck the Subaru Giannone and Milosevic were in, pushing it into the rear of a Toyota Corolla driven by Dominika Tukaj, 33, of Bristol, according to state police.
After the accident, a fire broke out between the tractor- trailer and the Subaru. Troopers said Giannone’s death was a result of the collision. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Giannone was a 2014 graduate of Woodland Regional High School. After high school, she started attending Naugatuck Valley Community College, where she studied animation. She was active in clubs and organizations in both schools and was scheduled to attend the Disney College program in the spring.
It is unknown if Milosevic’s injury is from the fire or the crash. Milosevic was transported to Saint Mary’s Hospital and later transferred to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he was listed in serious condition.
The accident closed I-84 eastbound for seven hours.
On Thursday, the water main was repaired, recapped and some of the pressure was released, Nursick said. He said it burst Wednesday when standing water inside froze.
“The water main split and became compromised because it froze,” he said.
The water main is owned by the city, but about six months ago, the DOT capped the north side of the water main, under the city’s supervision, as part of the I84 reconstruction project, Nursick said.
The DOT’s contractor, I84 Constructors, recently built a new water main on Harpers Ferry Road between Plank Road and Ashmun Street, but that water main was not affected by Wednesday’s events.
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