MARBLEHEAD — Both local and state officials are declining to take responsibility for an apparent lapse that left the driver in the death of Allie Castner on the road for a month following the Aug. 24 accident.
The Registry of Motor Vehicles customarily suspends the license of any driver involved in a road fatality. Yet, the license of Thomas Larivee was not pulled until Friday. There has been no charge of wrongdoing leveled at Larivee, but his license has been suspended as a precaution against the possibility that he will be found liable.
According to Registry spokeswoman Ann Dufresne, under Chapter 90, Section 29, of the General Laws, the Marblehead police were responsible for notifying the registrar within 15 days of the accident. She said this must be done "in a form prescribed" by the registrar.
Here is where the police were in error, Dufresne suggested, by not using the prescribed method of contacting the Registry — a standard accident form. Consequently, she said, the Registry did not even know the accident had taken place until it was approached by reporters for a comment last week.
Even the report police sent Friday was incomplete, she said.
Yet, police Chief Robert Picariello said his department did indeed notify the Registry of the accident via the computerized Criminal Justice Information System on Aug. 25 at 10 a.m., the morning following the death.
"We sent them a 'fatal accident notification,'" he said. "They received it." It was sent "on a screen" specifically geared toward fatal accidents. "The very fact that a fatal accident report is not acceptable ...? This is absurd."
He said the additional police report sent last week — at the request of the Registry — was given a verbal OK. "(They) knew exactly what I was sending because I told (them)." Details were absent, he added, because the investigation into the accident is ongoing.
On Friday, Picariello accepted the Registry complaint that no notification had been given, explaining that by his reading the law seemed to require that a violation be determined before a license can be suspended. Subsequently, he said, he checked and discovered that his department had indeed sent a report. "We believe we've done our job."
For her part, Dufresne explained that up to 77 accident reports a week — not all of them fatalities — are sent each week to the agency. "Typically, they're faxed in." She conceded it was possible that no one even read the report sent by the police via computer in the hours following the accident.
The Castner death has been the subject of growing controversy. Last week, the victim's family raised questions about the status of Larivee's license. Charges that District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett was giving favorable treatment to the driver grew so intense that the entire matter was turned over to the district attorney of Worcester County, Joseph Early Jr., on Friday.
The move was made, according to Blodgett's office, to avoid even the perception that the investigation is biased. His decision followed a meeting with the Castner family.