Three of 5 victims in fatal wrong-way crash identified
MIDDLEBOROUGH — Kraig Diggs and his cousin Jordan Galvin-Jutras did everything together.
They grew up on the Cape, played football at Barnstable High School, trained in boxing with Diggs’s father. After graduation, they enrolled in Anna Maria College in Paxton, setting their sights on careers in business and public safety.
Early Monday morning, their lives ended in tragedy, two of five people killed when a wrong-way driver struck Diggs’s car on Interstate 495 in Middleborough.
Diggs, 20, and Galvin-Jutras, 19, were among four people who died in his car. The wrong-way driver, a 31-year-old woman with ties to Fall River, was also killed, authorities said.
The four young men in Diggs’s car were headed back to their Central Massachusetts colleges after a weekend on Cape Cod. They had left the Middleborough home of Diggs’s mother on Sunday night, said his father, Kip Diggs, 50, of Osterville, who recalled his son’s bright personality.
“He lit up the room,” he said of his son, who was studying business at Anna Maria College. “He had one of those smiles that you just gravitate to, and you start talking. He was very respectful and just a good boy.”
Diggs and his passengers were traveling northbound on Interstate 495 in his 2003 Mercury Sable when they were hit by a 2011 Infiniti G37 that the woman was driving in the wrong direction, according to State Police.
Rodney Fisher, of Harwich, told multiple media outlets that his son, Jordan 19, was among the passengers killed in Diggs’s car. Rodney Fisher could not be reached for further comment.
Law enforcement officials did not identify any of the victims by name, including the wrong-way driver. The fourth victim in Diggs’s car was an 18-year-old man from West Babylon, N.Y., State Police said.
“It was a horrific scene,” said State Police Major Anthony Thomas, commander of State Police Troop D, at a news conference at the Middleborough barracks.
Anna Maria College held a student meeting Monday to discuss the crash, and grief counselors will be available this week, said Andrew Klein, the school’s vice president for student affairs.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with their family and friends,” Klein said. “[Diggs and Galvin-Jutras] were vibrant and popular young men on campus. It’s a real loss.”
He said Galvin-Jutras was studying fire science, a major selected by students who aspire to become firefighters or paramedics.
Michael Winn, fire chief of the Centerville-Osterville-Marstons Mills Fire Department, said Galvin-Jutras was an intern with the department during his high school senior year.
“He did anything that a firefighter on duty was doing,” Winn said. “Whatever they were doing, he was doing . . . he was embracing all of it. He was really, really eager and excited about his future.”
Winn described the crash as a “tragedy, almost indescribable.”
Middleborough Fire Chief Lance Benjamino said firefighters arrived at the scene of the crash to see a “big ball of fire.”
It was only after the flames were out that firefighters learned four people were inside the charred wreckage, authorities said.
“It’s always a horrific scene when young people are killed in a tragic accident,’’ Benjamino said. “This happens to be even more tragic when it’s five young lives.’’
He said two sets of the Jaws of Life were needed to remove the victims from the wreckage, a task his firefighters undertook with “dignity and respect.’’
The chief said he and other firefighters were affected by the scene. Benjamino said he lost his 21-year-old brother in a crash and that some of the emergency personnel were parents of college-age children.
The twisted vehicles were moved to a nearby tow yard and were visible to passersby.
Thomas, of the State Police, said the investigation was ongoing and investigators are exploring the actions of the wrong-way driver.
Thomas said a 911 caller reported seeing the wrong-way driver moments before the fatal crash.
He said investigators believed that driver was only on the highway briefly.
Thomas said State Police and the state Department of Transportation have developed “proactive measures” to prevent wrong-way crashes through enforcement and ramp signs telling drivers they are heading in the wrong direction.
But, he said, the reach of government has its limits.
“Could we mount a wall that pushes back fate?’’ he said. “I guess we could, but sometimes fate overwhelms us all.”
Wrong-way collisions nationwide have killed about 360 people a year on average, according to federal statistics.
Earlier this month, five Vermont high school students were killed in a crash involving a wrong-way driver on Interstate 89. The wrong-way driver hit seven vehicles and injured 10 other people, authorities said.
Kip Diggs said his son had “big dreams” and was hoping to enter international business after college.
He expressed sadness not only for the young men killed in his son’s car but also for the family of the other driver.
“We are all human,” Diggs said. “Someone else’s family is missing a child who’s not coming home either.”