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April 05. 2013 9:26PM

Cause remains unknown in logging truck fatal crash

TWIN MOUNTAIN - A fiery crash that left a 22-year-old North Country woman dead on a West Milan highway Wednesday afternoon remains under investigation.

New Hampshire State Police said Friday that no official accident cause has been established. But prior to impact, they said, a 1995 Dodge pickup truck crossed the center line of Route 110 and went into the path of an eastbound loaded logging truck driven by Robert Hibbard, 58, of Colebrook.

Family members Thursday night identified the driver of the Dodge pickup as Holly Ayotte of Berlin.

The Office of the New Hampshire Chief Medical Examiner in Concord Friday had not positively identified the driver killed in the pickup, according to a spokeswoman there who said Dr. Thomas Andrew had performed the autopsy. State police also had not released her identity through mid-afternoon Friday.

But family members Thursday night said she was Ayotte, a 2009 Berlin High School graduate.

The mother of a 2-year-old child, Ayotte was a home health care worker who had recently become a licensed nursing assistant, according to her grandmother, Mary Jane Pepin of Berlin.

"We're all upset; she was so young," Pepin said Friday. The young woman who, according to her grandmother, loved driving four-wheeled vehicles through deep mud, would have turned 23 in August.

A third driver, Jesse Coulombe, no age listed, of Berlin, crashed while trying to avoid the head-on collision that occurred at about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, and the vehicle he was driving was heavily damaged, according to state police.

Hibbard and Coulombe sustained minor injuries and were treated at the scene by Berlin Ambulance personnel and released. Firefighters worked for about 45 minutes to extinguish the vehicle fire that erupted following the crash. Afterward, they found the body identified as Ayotte's.

Pepin said her granddaughter had been living with the baby, Bryer Rand, and his father, Benjamin Rand, in Berlin.

She brought her new nursing assistant's license with her to Lancaster Wednesday to apply for employment, and was returning east to the Berlin area, Pepin said, when, according to police, the crash occurred near the breakdown lane on the west side of the highway.

"She's been working for Granite State Independent Living in home health care," her grandmother said.

Ayotte's former foster mother, Betty Baillargeon of Milan, said Thursday night that, in addition to mudding, Ayotte was a fan of the outdoors in general, and enjoyed camping, hunting and fishing.

"She was the outdoor type," her grandmother agreed Friday. "I don't know where she got it," Pepin said, regarding that enthusiasm. "It was just her."

bhookway@newstote.com

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