Trial underway for driver in 2016 Milford pickup rollover that seriously injured three

Staff photo by Dean Shalhoup Zakery Krol, left, and his lawyer, Attorney Darrin Brown, listen to Superior Court Clerk Marshall Buttrick read the charges against Krol on the first day of his trial Tuesday.

NASHUA – On a late-summer afternoon in 2016, five Milford area friends got together to do a little four-wheeling on some trails off Perry Road.

They clambered into Zakery Krol’s big Dodge 2500 pickup – Krol, then 18, at the wheel, Mitch Rota, 19, in the front passenger seat, and Joseph Bellantoni, 20, Kyle Labrie, 16, and Justin Tweedy, 15, in the bed of the truck.

It took only a bump with the truck to swing the gates open, according to a county prosecutor. Krol steered the truck down a trail that soon opened into a field, the prosecutor said.

Krol allegedly drove onto the field and hit the gas pedal. The engine roared. The back end of the truck slid, the prosecutor said; the three guys riding in the bed grabbed what they could and held on as tightly as they could.

Seconds later, the truck began to tumble. The three were tossed into the air. When the truck came to rest on its roof, Bellantoni, Labrie and Tweedy lay on the ground where they landed, all of them suffering from serious injuries that included broken bones.

Assistant County Attorney Lisa Drescher recounted the harrowing Sept. 5, 2016, crash during her opening statement in Krol’s jury trial, which got underway Tuesday morning in Hillsborough County Superior Court South.

Krol, of 834 Mason Road in Wilton, is being tried on a total of seven charges, including three counts each of reckless conduct and second-degree assault, all Class B felonies.

The seventh charge, one Class A misdemeanor count of criminal trespass, accuses Krol of unlawfully entering the property where the crash occurred.

The parcel, sometimes referred to as the “Brox pit,” is off Perry Road in the northwest section of Milford, and about halfway between Route 101 and the Heron Pond Elementary School. It is partly owned by the town, according to testimony, and by a group called “Not Too Dusty Field LLC,” under the name Paul K. Amato.

The trial, which the parties estimate will take three to four days, resumes at 10 a.m. today in Courtroom 3. Krol’s lawyer, attorney Darrin R. Brown, took the relatively rare, but not unheard-of, step of choosing to hold off on his opening statement until the prosecution rests and the defense begins calling its witnesses.

Drescher, in her roughly 10-minute opening statement, said at least one of the passengers in the bed of the truck realized Krol was going to “do a doughnut” as soon as he heard the engine roar.

At that point, “he wanted out of the truck,” Drescher said, describing one of the young men holding onto the truck and another holding onto that man’s shirt.

“As (Krol) tries the doughnut, the truck flips over,” she added.

The state’s first witness, Milford police officer Ryan Rothhaus, said he arrived at the scene at about the same time as some call firefighters and ambulance personnel.

He testified he saw an overturned pickup truck with oversize tires and “four young men on the ground.”

One, Tweedie, was “holding his leg,” Rothhaus said. He spoke briefly with Labrie, who, he said, had a compound arm fracture. “The bone was sticking out,” he said.

It turned out that Tweedie had a fractured ankle and Bellantoni’s pelvis was fractured, Rothhaus said. He and Labrie were treated at a Nashua hospital then later transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Tweedie and Krol were treated at St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua. Rota was uninjured.

Brown, in cross-examining Rothhaus, asked him numerous detailed questions about the scene and the officer’s involvement in the investigation.

Rothhaus said he couldn’t recall if the truck was a two-wheel or four-wheel-drive vehicle, adding that he “didn’t look inside” to find out.

“You described it as ‘lifted,'” Brown said, referring to Rothhaus’s earlier testimony. “Are you aware there’s no lift kit in it?”

“It looked higher than normal,” Rothhaus responded.

Drescher raised numerous objections during Brown’s cross-examination of Rothhaus, the majority of which Judge Charles Temple overruled, some of which he sustained.

A representative of the state Fish and Game Department, which also investigated the incident and filed a report, took the stand later in the day.

Temple, the judge, adjourned court a bit early Tuesday, citing an appointment in Concord.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, or @Telegraph_DeanS.