New Details on Xmas Eve Crash That Led to Outage [UPDATE]

A Christmas Eve accident on the Post Road near the Darien YMCA damaged a telephone pole and knocked out power to more than 600 town residents until Christmas morning.

Update, 2:12 p.m., Thursday:

Darien police on Thursday released more details on the crash that caused a power outage for more than 600 homes from Christmas Eve through Christmas morning.

Police gave this account of the incident, which is still under investigation, and for which no one has been charged:

At about 4:56 p.m., a 2008 Toyota sport utility vehicle driven by Russell Pinto, 45, of Stamford, was traveling east on the Post Road near the Darien YMCA (see attached map for the Y's location).

The SUV drove onto the roadway shoulder, where it struck a utility pole, causing it to snap and block the two eastbound lanes and one westbound lane on the road.

Phone, cable and power lines were "adversely impacted" by the crash, which led to the power outage, according to police.

Pinto was hurt, although not with life-threatening injuries, and Darien EMS Post 53 took him to Stamford Hospital.

Update, 6:31 p.m., Wednesday:

Darien police do not have a time available for when the Christmas morning CodeRed telephone message was sent to town residents.

"Other than the code red being sent in the morning, I don't have a time of initiation," Darien Police Capt. Frederick W. Komm wrote in an email to Darien Patch.

Update, 3:15 p.m.:

The accident on the Post Road near the Darien YMCA which led to the power outage occurred at 4:55 p.m. Monday, Christmas Eve, according to Darien Police Capt. Frederick W. Komm.

In an email responding to a request for the text and timing of the CodeRed message sent by Darien Police to residents on Christmas morning, Komm wrote:

"The CodeRed was sent out the morning of 12/25 when we were provided with a better idea of when power would be restored. The message is unable to be retrieved."

One Darien Patch reader, Dose E Dare, complained in a comment that the CodeRed message went out too early in the morning:

"For Darien police: avoid the alarming "CODE RED" (whatever that meant) call at 8-am Christmas morn...as freezing folks were tryin' to catch a few winks!"

Another reader, Artful Dodger, posted a comment which (in part) said there were "more than 650 families without POWER FROM XMAS EVE UNTIL 5P Christmas day [...]"

CL&P spokeswoman Tricia Taskey Modifica, when told Patch users were saying the outage lasted well into Christmas Day, said the CL&P operations center definitely stated that power was restored by 9 a.m. that day.

Darien Patch has again asked police for the time the message was sent out.


Update, 2:05 p.m.:

In the wake of the Christmas Eve-Christmas morning power outage in Darien, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said she's asking Connecticut Light & Power to broadcast messages over customers' phone lines to notify them about the more important outages.

More than 600 town residents were out of power between about 9 p.m. Christmas Eve and 9 a.m. Christmas Day, according to the utility.

Stevenson said that at 8:30 a.m. Christmas Day, she visited the utility's online outage map and saw about 600 customers still without power. In an interview Wednesday, Stevenson gave this account of what she knew about the outage and the response to it:

Stevenson herself didn't hear about the 9 p.m. accident until about 11:30 p.m. Christmas Eve (Monday) when she read an email sent to her from Darien police.

Police don't normally get in touch with her regarding incidents that don't involve public health and safety, she said. "Nor do I feel they should, frankly."

After seeing the utility's outage Web page at about 8:30 a.m. Christmas Day, Stevenson called police to find out more about the status of the blackout. She asked police to send out a reverse-911 telephone message to town residents, which occurred later that morning.

The call went townwide (to those who subscribe to the CodeRed service) sometime Christmas morning and said the utility expected power to be restored within two hours, Stevenson said.

(Darien Patch has asked police for the transcript of that reverse-911 call and the time it was sent out.)

"I feel badly that some people believe their holiday was ruined because of this," Stevenson said.

Stevenson on CL&P's response

"The town cannot be the sole provider of communication on these issues," she said. She said the town's "CodeRed" system should be reserved for public safety messages, "not for utility inconveniences."

CL&P has the ability to send out its own telephone messages to customers without power and tell them when they expect power to be restored, Stevenson said. "When that pole went out, the computer systems that CL&P has knows exactly what cutomers were without power [...] They should be able to communicate directly with their customers, and furthermore, they should communicate with me."

"CL&P has customers, and they must be accountable and communicative with their customers," she said. "Obviously, we continue to have things to work out with the utility."


Power to hundreds of Darien utility customers was knocked out at about 9 p.m. Christmas Eve by a motor vehicle accident on the Post Road near the Darien YMCA, according to Connecticut Light & Power.

No life-threatening injuries resulted from the accident, said Darien Police Capt. Frederick W. Komm, a spokesman for the department.

Utility crews working through the night had power restored to all residents by 9 a.m., said CL&P spokeswoman Tricia Taskey Modifica.

A vehicle struck a utility poll, which was extensively damaged, as were power lines, according to Komm. The accident is still under investigation, he wrote in an email.

citizenbrwn December 26, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Well, we wouldn't want any misinformation CL&P. 9 am.....by then we were layered up and in our car searching for breakfast ( on a day where anything decent is closed) and trying to warm up our children. Why did it even take them that long? If they want to clarify things how about explaining the full and COMPLETE timeline? When did they realize a new pole would be needed? How long did it take to get it? I'd be happy to swallow my indignation with some transparency that doesn't show a bunch of hours were wasted.
Jim Cameron December 26, 2012 at 11:44 PM
Fact check: the power went out at 5 pm 12/24. The Code Red call from Darien PD came at 8:22 am 12/25 (I still have it on my voicemail) In fairness, Town hall was not alone in not sending any updates by phone or Twitter. Neither the Darien Patch or Darien Times had any coverage until 12/26
Charles Salmans December 28, 2012 at 01:14 AM
CL&P's communications, as usual, were atrocious. There website prominently displays the areas of Connecticut that they DON'T serve. The message -- don't bother us if you live here! That's clearly the headline message they want to convey. On Dec. 24 and 25, the map said that in Southwestern Connecticut one customer was without power in Stamford -- poor sod. Only when you magnified Connecticut did you see that the area around the Post Road near Noroton Presbyterian and north was affected -- and no information about estimated power restoration. By phone, the automated system first said power would be restored by 9 p.m. on Dec. 24, then midnight, then 9 a.m. It actually came back on about 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 25.
Johnnyon the spot December 28, 2012 at 10:42 PM
What in heavens name is a "CODE RED" alert?
David Gurliacci December 29, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Johnny, it's a recorded telephone message from the town to those who subscribe to the free service. Please see the seventh paragraph of the 2:05 p.m. update. Just click on the blue words and follow the link.


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