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Fifth person dies following Billerica auto auction crash

NBC Boston/Associated Press

In addition to the five who died, another nine people were injured May 3 when a Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by Roger Hartwell suddenly lurched forward and sped into the crowd at an auto auction facility in Billerica.

By Globe Correspondent 

A fifth person has died from injuries sustained in a crash earlier this month at LynnWay Auto Auction in Billerica, authorities said Saturday night.

Ruben Espaillat, 55, of Methuen, died Saturday at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, according to a joint statement from Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and Billerica police Chief Daniel Rosa.

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Espaillat’s family could not be reached for comment.

In addition to the five who have died, another nine people were injured on May 3 when a Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by Roger Hartwell, 76, suddenly lurched forward and sped into the crowd at the auto auction facility.

The sport utility vehicle came to rest only after crashing into a cinderblock wall.

The other people killed were previously identified as Leezandra Aponte, 36, of Lowell; Brenda Lopez, 48, of Providence; Elliott Rowlands Jr., 50, of Buzzards Bay; and Pantaleon Santos, 49, of Cumberland, R.I.

Hartwell earlier had been found to be at fault in seven crashes in Weymouth, Quincy, and Milton between 1985 and 2006, Registry of Motor Vehicles records show. Hartwell, who had worked for the auction company since 2010, had a suspended license at the time of the crash, the auction house said.

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“We were unaware of the change in status of the driver’s license until the police told us after the accident,” Jim Lamb, the company’s president, said in a May 5 statement.


Jeremy C Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com
Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.