Witnesses: Driver of truck in fatal crash ‘swerving,’ ‘erratic’ before impact
AMHERST – Moments before police believe Tyler Berry’s GMC pickup truck smashed into Sierra Croteau’s car “in a mostly head-on fashion” the night of April 5, a man driving west on Route 101 told police the truck passed him on a double-yellow line, swerved back into its lane to let an eastbound car pass, then crossed again into the oncoming lane.
It was then, the man told police, that he saw “headlights coming (toward him) in the eastbound lane.” The man said he “watched the tail lights of the truck” until the car’s headlights and the truck’s taillights both disappeared.
Moments later, the man was on the phone with 911, having come upon the wreckage of the truck and a passenger car strewn across Route 101 not far from the Bedford town line.
The man is one of several witnesses interviewed by state police investigators in the aftermath of the crash, which claimed the life of Croteau, a 21-year-old Milford High School graduate, and landed Tyler, a 27-year-old off-duty Londonderry police officer, under arrest on a felony count of aggravated driving while intoxicated.
Tyler, a Bedford police officer for two years before he joined Londonderry department in January 2018, was arrested at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, where he was taken for treatment of injuries sustained in the crash.
While medical personnel were treating him at the scene, Berry allegedly told one of them “he had been consuming ‘adult sodas,'” state police Trooper Bryan Plamondon stated in his report.
Two first-responders who interacted with Berry at the scene allegedly “detected the odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from his person,” Plamondon wrote.
Amherst police officer Christopher Carey, who met with Berry at the hospital, told investigators “he, as well, was able to detect the odor of an alcoholic beverage” allegedly coming from Berry.
Carey also noted, according to Plamondon’s report, that Berry “had bloodshot, glassy eyes, droopy eyelids … as well as slow speech.”
Based on those observations, “and due to the severity of the crash (and) serious bodily injury,” police placed Berry under arrest and read to him the felony administrative license suspension statute, the report states.
Plamondon said investigators applied for, and were granted, a search warrant in order to “obtain two blood draws” from Berry. The first took place at about 5 a.m., roughly 5-6 hours after the crash, but Berry allegedly refused to submit to the second blood draw, police said.
The report also notes that investigators “anticipate that further charges will be brought forward” as the investigation continues.
In a Facebook post the day after the crash, Londonderry police sent “our heartfelt thoughts and prayers” to Croteau’s family and friends, and said the department “will cooperate fully with the investigation and take appropriate action when more facts are known.”
It’s not clear whether Berry has been placed on modified duty, or on paid or unpaid administrative leave. The only known reference to his status came two days after his arrest, when a Londonderry police spokesman said, “at this time, he is active, pending the investigation.”
Meanwhile, another witness police spoke with after the crash said she was driving west on Route 101 in Bedford when a truck “she believed to be a GMC,” and “was sure had veteran license plates,” passed her on the left as the vehicles were going through an intersection, Plamondon wrote.
When she came upon the scene of the crash moments later, she told police she “was 99 percent sure” the truck involved in the crash was the same one that passed her in Bedford.
Berry, who was released from the hospital within a day or two of the crash, entered a not guilty plea to the felony charge and waived formal arraignment in Hillsborough County Superior Court-North in Manchester.
He was granted personal recognizance bail, with conditions that include he consume no alcohol, possess no firearms or other dangerous weapons and sign a waiver of extradition.
He also must continue to live at the Amherst residence he shares with his wife, and is prohibited from driving, according to his bail order.
Berry has retained Nashua Attorney Charles Keefe, according to documents in his case file. First Assistant County Attorney Kent Smith, who typically works out of Hillsborough County Superior Court-South in Nashua, is listed as the prosecutor.
Court officials indicated the possibility the case will be transferred to the Nashua court, perhaps because Berry interacted closely with Superior Court North personnel while a Bedford police officer.
The date, and nature, of Berry’s next scheduled appearance in court is not yet entered in his case file.