SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 31, 2014

World War I monument grounded since accident

BY PAUL LEIGHTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — A World War I monument has been lying on the ground in the city’s veterans park since it was knocked over by a vehicle nearly two weeks ago.

Police said a 73-year-old man drove off the road after suffering a possible seizure about 2:15 p.m. on Jan. 18. His black SUV veered off Rantoul Street and into Veterans Memorial at Odell Park.

The vehicle knocked over a 4-foot-tall stone monument honoring 30 Beverly men who died in World War I. It also flattened a 30-foot-long flagpole that was flying an American flag and a POW/MIA flag.

The park is in a prominent location between the post office and train depot. It also includes memorials to veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War and is the site of the city’s annual Veterans Day commemoration.

Names on the World War I memorial include Robert J. Cooney and H. Gordon Ellis who have well-known city landmarks named after them: Cooney Field and Ellis Square.

Jerry Guilebbe, the city’s veterans agent, said he did not know about the damage to the memorial and flagpole until Wednesday when a veteran called him about it. Guilebbe then called Mike Collins, the city’s Department of Public Services director.

Officer Mike Boccuzzi, Beverly Police Department’s public information officer, said he believes the responding police officers called public services to notify them of the damage. But Collins said he was unaware of the incident until he was contacted by Guilebbe.

Collins said the monument was not badly damaged, but it is frozen to the ground, so workers will have to wait for warmer weather before they can return it to its rightful position.

“We don’t want to damage it by trying to pry it off the ground,” he said.

Collins said the city will have to replace the flagpole, which has been removed from the park. He was hoping the cost would be borne by the driver’s insurance company.

The driver was taken by ambulance to Beverly Hospital after the crash, police said. Boccuzzi said police filed an “immediate threat” complaint on the driver’s license with the Registry of Motor Vehicles, citing medical reasons.

Boccuzzi said the driver’s name is being withheld because the crash was caused by a medical situation.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.