Leverett man dies in car crash in South Hadley

  • The rollover of a van in the 500 block of Bay Road in Amherst closed Bay Road just east of Middle Street Thursday morning, Nov. 21, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Police and emergency workers respond to a fatal car crash on Amherst Street (Rt. 116) on the south side of the Notch at the South Hadley/Granby town line Thursday morning.  STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amherst emergency responders work at the scene of an accident at West Pomeroy Lane and West Street (Rt. 116) involving a late model Volvo Thursday morning, Nov. 21, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 11/21/2019 11:10:19 AM

SOUTH HADLEY — A 44-year-old Leverett man died following a two-car crash in South Hadley on Route 116 near the Notch early Thursday morning, according to the Northwestern district attorney’s office.

Parmatma S. Khalsa, a third-grade teacher at Mosier Elementary School in South Hadley, died in the crash that occurred at 7:22 a.m., said Mary Carey, spokeswoman for the district attorney.

The accident forced the closure of the state highway for several hours, requiring vehicles heading north from South Hadley to be detoured onto Route 47 into Hadley and Route 202 into Granby and Belchertown.

South Hadley Police, Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Northwestern district attorney’s office, the state police Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section and the state police Crime Scene Services are investigating. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death.

South Hadley Schools Superintendent Nicholas Young said Khalsa was in his fourth year teaching at the school and had already made lasting contributions.

“He’s highly regarded, very capable and much beloved,” Young said. “His passing is especially hard because he’s so popular.”

Young said the district has activated a crisis team that will respond to the needs of children and staff on Friday. A letter being sent to parents and guardians provides additional information about services and resource materials so they can talk to their children about grief.

The crash happened about an hour before another motor vehicle crash in Amherst that closed Bay Road between Middle and South East streets.

At 8:38 a.m., Amherst police and firefighters responded to the vicinity of 518 Bay Road where a school transport van heading east hit a utility pole and rolled onto its side, causing heavy damage to the pole.

Fire engines and an ambulance were on the scene, along with two Eversource trucks to make repairs to the pole during the hour after the accident.

Amherst Fire Chief Walter “Tim” Nelson said the crash was caused by black ice on the shaded road surface.

“The van hit a patch of ice. The roads were treacherous,” Nelson said, adding that it was impossible to tell the difference between the dry road surface and where there was ice.

The driver and one child were the lone people in the van, Nelson said. Firefighter-paramedics helped get the driver out, and both the child and driver were evaluated and determined not to be injured.

“Seatbelts and airbags kept them from being hurt,” Nelson said.

A Department of Public Works sander also was briefly in the vicinity to treat the slick surface, with the temperatures at the time in the low 30s.

Nelson said a family living nearby welcomed the child into the home and kept him calm with puzzles and other games until a parent arrived to pick him up.

Amherst DPW Superintendent Guilford Mooring said his department didn’t get any overnight calls about icy roads, observing that any icy patches may not have formed until just before or after the sun rose.

“It probably didn’t get freezing until this morning,” Mooring said.

Nelson said drivers should be mindful that wet roads can quickly become dangerous at this time of year.

“Folks have to take heed when the forecast says there’s going to be ice,” Nelson said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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