Marine Corporal Robert Magee, 28, was on the Massachusetts Turnpike on Friday evening, driving from the West Bridgewater home where he grew up to a weekend drill at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee when, police say, a wrong-way driver collided with his car head on, fatally injuring both.
Clarence Lux, 84, of New Britain, Conn., was driving east on the westbound lane near exit 6 in Ludlow and collided with Magee at about 8:30 p.m., State Police said.
Both were taken to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, where they were pronounced dead.
Magee’s father, Russell, of North Brookfield, said he got a call from the hospital early Saturday morning. He did not see his son before he died.
“I don’t think he ever woke up from the accident,” he said.
About 20 minutes before Lux collided with Magee, State Police received calls reporting a wrong-way driver in the area, police said. They sent two cruisers to find the driver, but did not locate Lux before the crash, said Trooper Todd Nolan, a State Police spokesman.
“It’s not uncommon to get calls for wrong-way drivers on highways,” Nolan said. “A lot of times people have the moment of clarity where they realize, ‘Oh, my God, I’m driving the wrong way,’ and find a way off the road.”
Ludlow Fire Captain John Moll, who responded to the crash scene, said the collision occurred on a straight stretch of the highway where drivers tend to travel at high speeds.
“It was a high-speed, head-on crash, so there was substantial damage,” he said. Both drivers had to be removed with a power tool.
Because of the relatively long period of time between the first call to police and the crash, Nolan said State Police believe Lux may have been in the wrong lane, then pulled over onto the center divider for a while, before returning to the wrong lane.
“Around that time frame, that road is pretty busy. We can only speculate that he did pull over,” Nolan said. “We just don’t know.”
Magee, known to family and friends as Bobby, served a tour of duty in Iraq in 2007, his father said.
He enjoyed scuba diving and going for long walks in the woods with his pit bull terrier, Dirty.
“I couldn’t ask for a much better son,” Russell Magee said. “He had a good head on his shoulders. He could see the reality in things.”
Magee graduated from West Bridgewater Middle-Senior High School in 2002, then enrolled in the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay. He attended the academy for two years before leaving to join the Marines in 2004, his father said.
“He was studying to be a building maintenance engineer,” his father said.
“He met a friend down there, they got pretty tight and they decided they wanted a little more excitement in their life, so they joined up and headed off to the (military) together.”
In Iraq, Magee towed and repaired broken-down military cars and trucks, his father said. After he returned to West Bridgewater, where he lived alone in his childhood home after his family moved to North Brookfield, he talked about going back to school and making a career in the military.
Marines Sergeant Major David Adams said he did not know Magee personally, but heard he was “an outstanding Marine . . . held in high regard by his Marines.”
Hampden District Attorney Mark G. Mastroianni said the crash was still under investigation Saturday afternoon.
“They’re investigating if there was illness or infirmary that could cause disorientation or confusion. That’s obviously all part of the reconstruction,” he said.
Two other cars were involved in the crash, but their occupants were not injured and the cars did not have serious damage, Nolan said.
Along with his father, Magee leaves his mother, Tracey Coran, also of North Brookfield, and a 34-year-old sister, Tanya.
Officials from Troop E of the Massachusetts State Police, the Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section, and the State Police Crime Scene Services Section are investigating.
The Ludlow Fire Department, Ludlow EMS, and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation assisted State Police at the scene.