A 73-year-old Vermont woman is recovering from severe facial injuries suffered when a chunk of flying ice that witnesses said broke off the roof of a tractor-trailer smashed through her SUV's windshield.
Judith Donaghy, of North Hero, was driving Saturday on Route 2 in South Hero when the "ice missile" struck her car, according to Sheriff Ray Allen of Grand Isle County.
"This person could've been killed as a result of it," Allen observed, describing the smashed windshield which was struck by the so-called ice missile directly in front of the steering wheel.
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Other drivers said a sheet of thick ice broke off the roof of a tractor trailer and hit Donaghy's hood and windshield, according to Allen. No one other cars were struck. The truck driver kept driving, perhaps unaware of what happened, Allen said.
Donaghy was taken to the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington. Allen said he expects her to be released Tuesday.
Mitchell Richardson of Keeler Bay Service & Sales towed away the SUV from the scene.
"There was a lot of force," Richardson said, describing the impact from the ice to the hood and windshield of Donaghy's car. "I can't imagine what her experience was. I just can't."
Allen said he and his deputies are working to gather additional witness accounts and surveillance footage from businesses along Route 2. They hope of identifying the trucking company and give Donaghy an opportunity to receive an insurance settlement.
Allen said he found an image of an interstate trucking company that may have been involved, but would not release more information on the still-unfolding investigation.
There is no Vermont "ice missle" law that could lead to the application of penalties or criminal charges in this case, Allen said. He noted that state requirements around windshield visibility demand those be cleared, but there is no such law mandating ice be cleared from vehicles' roofs.
"I think we ought to do something about it," said State Rep. Kurt Wright, a Republican from Burlington.
Two years ago, Wright proposed "ice missile" legislation like Connecticut's, hoping to give Vermont law enforcement the ability to issue fines in egregious cases.
Wright recalled Monday in an interview with necn that the bill did not have traction in 2014. A prime argument against it, Wright acknowledged, was that there is no easy way to clean the tops of big tractor-trailers.
"We ought to work with the trucking industry to find a solution to this," Wright said Monday. "There's going to be a tragedy that occurs some time, and we're going to wish we had been stronger on it."
For now, Allen is urging drivers to take extra time to knock snow and ice off vehicles after storms, highlighting Donaghy's case as an example of why it's important.
"You know the snow's coming," Allen said of forecasts in advance of Vermont storms. "Get up a little bit earlier and clean off your vehicles, pick-ups and trailers you're going to be hauling. This is very serious."