By Paul Leighton Staff writer
The Salem News
---- — A passenger died after an SUV rolled over on Route 128 in Peabody at the height of Hurricane Sandy yesterday afternoon.
The victim and two other passengers were ejected from the vehicle when it struck the right guardrail and rolled over in the southbound lane near Lowell Street around 4 p.m., according to state police. The 1998 Toyota 4Runner came to rest on its roof in the high-speed lane.
The victim was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where he was pronounced dead, state police said.
A state police spokesman said investigators are looking into the possibility that speed and weather were factors in the crash. He said police would not release the name of the victim until relatives were notified.
The driver, Rony Lopez, 26, of Lynn, was not ejected from the vehicle. He was taken to Salem Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, state police said.
The two other passengers, Frederico Lopez, 18, of Lynn and Antonio Ramirez, 31, of Lynn were also transported to Mass General. Lopez had non-life-threatening injuries, while Ramierez had minor injuries.
The fatality came as Hurricane Sandy battered the North Shore with wind gusts that peaked at more than 60 mph and 8-foot-high waves that yanked boats loose from their moorings.
The storm sent trees toppling into houses and branches crashing down on vehicles and left nearly 50,000 people in Essex County without power.
But with school canceled and many workers remaining home after Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency, most people stayed inside and out of harm’s way.
Salem Hospital treated a few people for minor injuries after getting hit by tree limbs, while Beverly Hospital reported no storm-related injuries.
“I think people just hunkered down,” Beverly Hospital spokesman Gerald Mackillop said.
Falling trees created the greatest hazard in many communities. In Danvers, a huge tree was torn from its roots and crashed through the roof of a home at the corner of Fowler and Arthur streets.
Town Manager Wayne Marquis said the residents were in their living room at the time but were not injured.
In Beverly, a large tree pine tree in front of St. Margaret’s Church in Beverly Farms fell over and landed on wires, pulling down four poles and closing Hale Street.
Trees or limbs also fell on houses on Bridge Street, Tyler Road and Amherst Road and broke a window at Beverly Glass on Rantoul Street.
Beverly Public Services Director Mike Collins said cleanup of some of the major accidents was delayed because workers could not go up in bucket trucks until the high winds subsided.
The storm left the streets of Salem virtually empty during the normally bustling Haunted Happenings celebration.
Mayor Kim Driscoll said falling trees were the biggest issue in the city. Low-lying areas along Bridge Street and Commercial Street flooded during the noon high tide. But other sections that have flooded in the past, such as the Forrester Street neighborhood, were spared, she said.
Driscoll said public works crews had to secure the many portable toilets that are set up for Haunted Happenings to make sure they were not blown over. State inspectors determined that the Ferris wheel could withstand winds up to 80 mph and could remain, but the ride’s cars were removed.
A Salem woman avoided injury when a large tree branch fell on the front end of her Saab as she was driving on Clifton Avenue around 1:45 p.m. The limb damaged the hood and windshield, but the driver was not hurt, police said.
On the water, Hurricane Sandy created swells of 6 to 8 feet in Salem Harbor and caused about a dozen boats to break loose from their moorings, Salem Harbormaster Bill McHugh said.
McHugh said the owners of those boats did not heed warnings to move their crafts to safer spots in Pickering Wharf or up the Danvers River.
“There were a lot of boats out there that shouldn’t have been,” he said.
The storm also caused the remnants of the Rockmore, a floating restaurant that closed a couple of years ago, to wash ashore in the marshes off Lafayette Street.
In Danvers, police received a report of a man in a small boat on the Danvers River who was having trouble navigating during the storm. Harbormaster Chris Sanborn said the man managed to make it to the closest dock.
That boater wasn’t the only one to brave the water during the storm. A video posted on YouTube showed surfers at West Beach in Beverly.
In Peabody, Mayor Ted Bettencourt declared a state of emergency effective at midnight Sunday. A Peabody Fire Department official said the city dealt mainly with downed trees and wires and experienced no significant flooding.
Firefighters in several communities responded to fires in transformers and in and around downed power lines. In several instances, trees falling across wires pulled the electrical service units away from houses.
As of 9:50 last night, the Salem area had 1.2 inches of rain, according to Salem State University meteorologist Arthur Francis. Francis said winds reached about 55 mph and over 60 mph on the water.
“It’s one of the most severe storms we’ve had for a long time,” he said.
Officials said their communities would be facing a large cleanup task today. But overall, the storm’s impact was not as damaging as it might have been.
Marquis, the Danvers town manager, said the town had Holten Richmond Middle School ready to use as a shelter, but it wasn’t needed.
“Considering what some people are going through down the Cape and Rhode Island, I guess we can’t complain,” he said.