Updated: Firefighter killed in Weare when tree falls on truck

  • The damaged truck is seen after a tree fell on top of it.

  • The damaged truck is seen after a tree fell on top of it. Elizabeth Frantz/ Monitor staff

  • The top half of a tree that fell on a truck, killing the driver, is seen on Route 114 near John Stark Regional High School in Weare. photos by Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • A damaged truck is seen after a tree fell on top of it, killing the driver, near John Stark Regional High School in Weare, March 29, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • A tree that fell on a truck, killing the driver, is seen on Route 114 near John Stark Regional High School in Weare on Tuesday. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 3/29/2016 6:01:40 PM

The driver of a pickup truck was killed near John Stark Regional High School in Weare when a large tree fell during a wind gust Tuesday afternoon.

The victim was identified as 31-year-old Derek Lankowski, a member of the Lyndeborough Fire Department.

The accident occured just outside the entrance to the high school on Route 114 about 2:45 p.m., before school let out for the day.

Weare police Chief Sean Kelly said the driver was headed south on 114 when the poplar tree fell from where it stood near the side of the road.

Lyndeborough Selectman Fred Douglas said selectmen Chairman Lee Mayhew called members of the board to tell them there was an accident in Weare.

“He was letting us know because this individual recently joined the fire department,” Douglas said Tuesday night, adding that he had not met the man nor did he know his name.

Lesa Phipps of North Stark Highway in Weare lives across the street and said she heard a loud bang. When she looked out, she saw a tree in the road and the gray Chevy truck crushed nearby.

She and another bystander rushed to the man’s aid. He was alive and breathing with a pulse, she said. The two women were talking to the man, but he was unresponsive, Phipps said.

“He was just moaning,” she said. “We were telling him to hang in there and help was on the way.”

She said a crowd formed and several people called 911. Police were on scene in a matter of seconds, she said.

“We were trying to keep him going until the EMT and everyone showed up,” Phipps said. “Once they showed up, we just stopped traffic and let them do their job.”

Route 114 was closed for more than an hour and traffic was rerouted.

Kelly said a fire truck was intentionally put in front of the truck, blocking it from view as parents and students left the high school. Police worked with the school officials to delay the release of students until the scene was contained and detour routes were set.

After the body and truck were taken away, DOT workers removed the tree from the road.

A windy day in New Hampshire peaked early in the morning with gusts reaching 46 mph in the Concord area, according to the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine. The second highest peak was 42 mph about 3 p.m., around the time of the accident.

The tree did not seem to be rotted, and Kelly said it was safe to say the wind brought the tree down onto the truck.

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3314, nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)

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