Montville — The resident state trooper's office is investigating a Thursday night crash involving Town Council Chairman Tom McNally.
Montville police Lt. Leonard Bunnell said town officers were dispatched to Moxley Road after 10 p.m., where McNally's Dodge Ram truck had clipped a stone wall and crashed into a tree. Because the crash involved a high-profile town official, Bunnell said he referred the matter to Resident State Trooper Sgt. Mark Juhola.
McNally in an interview said it was "a slight accident. I swerved to miss a deer and spun around." He said he was not injured and was the lone occupant in his truck, which was heavily damaged on the front end. The crash scene still had several remnants of his truck strewn along the side of the road as of Friday evening.
McNally noted that he did not receive a ticket.
Prior to the crash, he had attended a comedy show, a fundraiser for the Republican Town Committee, at the Montville Polish Club. Photos from the event were posted on Facebook.
McNally said he'd only had one drink at the club, which is about 2 miles from the crash scene. He said he called police after the accident and two officers arrived within five or six minutes. They did not perform a sobriety test, he said, because drinking "wasn't even a factor."
Juhola said in every collision, officers talk to drivers and ask a host of questions. Citing the ongoing investigation, he said he could not comment on whether officers asked McNally where he was before the crash, or if he'd been drinking.
Bunnell said "standard protocol" calls for identifying witnesses and asking them questions at the scene about what they saw and heard. "That's part of any investigation," he said.
However, two Moxley Road residents, who heard the crash and went to the scene, say town police did not initiate questions about it.
Kipp Bourque said he was out near his driveway walking his dog between 9:45 and 10 p.m. Thursday when he saw a red truck “flying down the road.” He estimated it was going at least 50 to 60 mph; the speed limit in that area is 25 mph. Bourque said he then turned to focus on his dog before hearing a series of loud “bams ... and then, silence. It was the eeriest sound I ever heard.”
Bourque said he ran to his house to drop off the dog and called 911 before heading to the crash scene. He approached within several feet of the vehicle and asked McNally if he was all right. McNally replied, “‘There was a deer in the road,’” Bourque said.
Asked about McNally’s demeanor, Bourque said “there was a lot of fidgeting” and he spoke “a little slow at first. Maybe he was just shaken up. I don’t want to speculate. I just wanted to make sure he was OK.”
Bourque, who noted that many drivers speed down Moxley Road, found it odd that officers never asked him about what he'd witnessed. As he was leaving the scene, he told them that McNally had been "absolutely speeding."
He said he initially was reluctant to speak out, in part because he recognized McNally as a town official. But he said he later spoke to police and the media because he wants people to stop unsafely barreling down his road. “I want to lay low but it’s come to the point where my safety and wife and kids’ safety is on the line,” he said.
A resident who lives directly across the street from the tree where McNally’s truck wound up refused to give his name beyond “Joe.” He said the crash woke him up and he came out to see what happened. He said he did not approach the vehicle or see the driver.
McNally’s truck knocked over a road sign and portions of Joe's stone wall. Joe said police took his information and would contact him later about the driver’s insurance covering the damage.
When asked if officers had inquired about what he’d witnessed, Joe said, “They didn’t ask me but I told them. I woke up because I heard the big boom, boom bang.” He said he wasn’t too upset about the crash or the disturbance, and said he was surprised to learn the driver was a town official.
Both witnesses said state police later asked them questions about the incident.
Bunnell said town Officer Addison Safiotti responded, according to the town police logs, and McNally said Safiotti and Sgt. Gary Galdenzi were at the scene. Sgt. Ryan Spring, shift supervisor on Friday night, said Safiotti and Galdenzi could not comment on a pending investigation.
The Day on Friday morning filed a Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of the accident report from the resident state trooper's office. As of late Friday, state police at Troop E said the accident summary was not yet completed.
Asked to respond to the fact that the crash was under investigation, McNally said the "simple, one-car MVA" was not newsworthy or "life-shattering," and alleged Democrats in town were trying to spin the facts to hurt him.
After a reporter left a voicemail seeking more details, McNally sent a text saying he was "not interested in talking about this any further. It's absolutely ridiculous that this much effort is being put into something so stupid."
Mayor Ron McDaniel, a Democrat, said the accident remained under investigation by Juhola and declined to comment further.
Juhola said "the entire incident is under investigation."
Colleen Rix, chair of the Montville Town Republican Committee, said while drinks were served at the Polish Club between 6 and 9 p.m., few people went to the bar after the comedians began performing at 7 p.m.
"It wasn't like a wedding," she said, noting no one at the event, including McNally, showed any "red flags" that they should not drive home. She said she had limited interactions with McNally that night, as she was busy helping run the event.
Joe Rogulski, a Town Council member and treasurer of the town Republicans, said he didn't "recall a lot of people drinking excessively." He said he was busy cleaning and wrapping up the event when most people were leaving. Rogulski said he did not think McNally or others exhibited signs they should not drive.