LOWELL (CBS) – The fog was thick as 56 year old Colleen Luther drove down Lawrence Street just after six Monday morning. “She was on her way to work,” her sister Maryann Kanteles told us. “She got up and let the dog out and made tea and went to work and that’s the last, that’s all we know.”
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Karen Twomey reports
Police say her car clipped a jersey barrier set up on the bridge over the Concord River. Her car then shot across the two lanes, through a wrought iron railing and into the water. The fire department responded quickly, with two firefighters launching a boat and trying to get to her. One was overcome with Hypothermia.
Next, dive team members jumped in, but with a swift and unrelenting current, they had difficulty doing their job. Deputy Fire Chief John Dowling says at that point, they used a tow truck to pulled Luther’s car closer to shore. “When we brought it to the shore with the tow truck, we opened up the back door on the passengers side and when we opened up the door the victim was wedged down below the seats.”
Luther was pronounced dead at the hospital. Monday afternoon, family and friends showed up at the bridge. “My sister died here this morning,” said Kanteles, “And I just wanted to and needed to come here and just see what happened…where she died.”
Kanteles says Luther could not swim and was afraid of the water. “She never liked the water, ever. When we’d go swimming she’d be out of the water. She’d wet her ankles and was intimidated by the water. So that’s why this is so sad,” she said motioning toward the river.
Family members were concerned about those jersey barriers that, at the time, were a natural concrete color. It was officers, as they investigated Monday, who asked city crews to paint the barriers bright yellow and also add a white line along the right side of Lawrence Street. “It is too bad that it wasn’t done prior and perhaps this accident wouldn’t have happened. I don’t know,” Kanteles said.
A police spokeperson told WBZ they owe it to Luther’s family to investigate whether the layout of those barriers, which have a slight curve, contributed to the crash. Maryann Kanteles hopes her sister blacked out and didn’t know what was happening to her. “I’m hoping that something happened and she didn’t realize. Was she unconscious? I don’t know,” she said.
The construction on the bridge appears to be a city project under the department of public works. WBZ tried, but because of the holiday, there was no one in the office to comment. Police worked Monday to reconstruct the accident and hope to have a better idea of a cause soon.