A red tarp covers the car that crashed into a tollbooth on the Everett Turnpike in Merrimack, New Hampshire, Thursday afternoon.
Authorities say the driver, identified as John McDonough, 27, of Merrimack, was speeding— upwards of 100 miles per hour- and crashed into the center barrier at exit 11.
87-year-old toll collector Mildred Reynolds was working inside the booth on the far right when it happened, just after her shift began.
“I saw the explosion and the fire,” Reynolds said. “I just heard the bang, things were starting to fly.”
The red 2006 BMW exploded. The driver was killed.
“When you have people traveling at a high rate of speed, it endangers the public and it endangers our workers so we really advise against that,” explained Patrick McKenna of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.
Investigators say McDonough had been driving erratically in the southbound lanes up near Bedford- about 10 miles north- causing a minor accident with a pick-up truck before narrowly missing a motorcyclist and a large dump truck, and then nearly striking a State Police cruiser at a construction site on the highway, before exiting and smashing into the toll both.
"I mean I come through here to and from work here every day," Melissa Bell of Merrimack said. "Everyone’s so respectful of the speed, they watch out for other drivers, everyone's just so careful around here.”
Authorities aren’t sure why McDonough was going so fast. Reynolds was shaken up but not hurt. She stuck around until the end of her shift, hoping the plaza would reopen, so she could get back to doing her job.
“Scary, I swore a little bit,” Reynolds said.
Authorities say there is no structural damage to the toll both. They are checking the electronics to make sure they’re in working order and then the highway will reopen late Thursday night.