As far as freak accidents go, this might be the freakiest of them all.
A Boston woman died Friday after a dislodged manhole cover — weighing a massive 200 pounds — crashed against the windshield of her SUV, according to Boston Herald. The incident took place as the victim of the tragedy, a school art teacher named Caitlin Clavette, drove to work during the Friday morning commute, authorities confirmed.
The freak accident raises unsettling questions about motorists’ safety and has prompted the state to immediately inspect 500 covers for manholes, drainage systems, and electrical panels on area highways.
According to WCVB-TV, Clavette, a teacher at Glover Elementary School, was driving on Interstate 93 when a random manhole cover — apparently placed in the left lane of the interstate — came unstuck and crashed through the Boston woman’s Honda SUV.
In the immediate aftermath of the tragic incident, the car continued to go south for a few more meters before finally crashing into a wall, killing Clavette on the spot.
— WCVB-TV Boston (@WCVB) February 13, 2016
Although the freak accident has confounded authorities, who have all agreed that no recent road construction work was undertaken in the area, some think that other car(s) could have led to the tragedy. Speaking to Boston Globe, Marc Breakstone, a lawyer who has litigated personal injury cases involving manholes, said the manhole could have been dislodged it it was not sitting flush to the road.
“I’m guessing the rear wheel or wheels of a heavy vehicle passed over the manhole, catching the exposed lip of the cover, and from the traction of the tire dislodged and caused the cover to become a projectile which flew through the passenger compartment of this poor woman’s car.”
Describing the death of the Boston woman as an “incredible random tragedy,” Gov. Charlie Baker extended his support to the 35-year-old woman’s grieving family, saying that highway crews were already checking other manhole covers in the travel lanes of Boston-area highways to determine if any others were loose, reports New York Post.
“My initial reaction is what an incredible tragedy for that woman and her family and what an incredibly random tragedy.”
Thomas Tinlin, the state’s highway administrator, also extended his sympathies to the Boston woman’s family, before saying that the horrible accident has led authorities to reconsider the importance of inspecting manholes on a regular basis.
“Our sympathy goes out to the family of the victim involved in this horrific incident this morning. This tragedy is leading us to take several steps immediately out of an abundance of caution.”
State Police still on 93 south in boston where a manhole cover crashes thru a car killing the driver#7news pic.twitter.com/l7aTxmz6QW
— Steve Cooper (@scooperon7) February 12, 2016
Meanwhile, relatives and colleagues of the Boston woman paid their tributes to Clavette after the tragic accident, remembering what a beautiful human being she was — both in her personal and professional lives.
Sheila Kukstis, the principal of the school where Clavette worked, said she was a truly special individual who was as devoted to art in the classrooms as she was devoted to leading a healthy life outside it.
“She was a talented and valued member of our faculty. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.”
Her friends described the Boston woman as “a good spirit” and said that Clavette was a wonderful triathlete who loved to motivate the people around her.
— susantran (@susantran) February 13, 2016
As bizarre as this incident is, however, it appears it is not completely unprecedented. According to Fox News, Pawel Swierczynski, a software engineer from Easton, was severely injured in 2007 when a 250-pound storm grate slammed through his windshield on Route 128 in Westwood.
“This is a sad day for us as this tragic incident revives difficult memories. We can only offer our condolences and hope they find the strength to get through this difficult time,” the Swierczynski family said in a statement.
It remains to be seen if anybody is held responsible for the freak accident that killed the young Boston woman.
[Photo via Shutterstock]