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Driver haunted by newlywed crash

Union Leader Correspondent

August 01. 2013 11:34PM
Leah Fonda Preiss, left, was killed in a Rollinsford car accident on July 20. Matthew Tsopas, of Somersworth, has been charged in the crash. 

ROLLINSFORD — Roger Myers is still haunted by what he saw on the afternoon of July 20.

The Stratham man was driving on Roberts Road in Rollinsford when, he said, a car came racing up behind him.

Fearing the driver was impaired, Myers dialed 911 and gave the operator a detailed account of everything he saw.

Myers hoped someone would catch the driver, but minutes after he placed the call he witnessed the horrible crash that killed Leah Fonda Preiss, a bride from Minnesota honeymooning in New Hampshire with her new husband, Brian, who survived the accident.

The 57-year-old Myers tried to prevent the tragedy that unfolded before his eyes and hopes others would do the same.

"If people see some behavior like this, call and maybe you can stop a person before they destroy a lot of lives," Myers said Thursday.

Matthew Tsopas, the 43-year-old Somersworth man accused of driving drunk in the crash that killed Preiss, remains held at the Strafford County jail after a judge on Wednesday lowered his bail from $250,000 to $75,000 cash or bond and placed several conditions on him if he's released.

Tsopas faces two counts of negligent homicide, aggravated driving while intoxicated, and two counts of conduct after an accident.

On the day of the deadly accident, Myers had just left a shop he operates in Rollinsford for his business, StrathamWood Studios, when he said a car approached him from behind on Roberts Road at a high rate of speed.

It appeared that the driver later identified as Tsopas wanted to pass him, but Myers stayed in front.

"I was looking in the mirror and I could see he was swerving," said Myers, who worried that Tsopas would try to pass and hit a vehicle in the opposite direction.

While on the phone with a dispatcher, Myers said he came to a stop sign at the intersection of Roberts Road and Route 4 and was about to turn right onto Route 4 to head toward Dover. That's when Myers said he stopped and the car behind him drove around him and got in front of his vehicle.

With the car now in front of him, Myers followed and stayed on the line with the dispatcher.

"I just wanted to see which way he was going and wanted to relay that to police. I hoped they would pull him over before something happened," Myers said.

But moments later, Tsopas allegedly veered into oncoming traffic, striking the newlyweds in their car.

Myers said the crash happened about 200 feet in front of him.

"He went into the left-hand lane. It was nearly head-on. Their car spun around and ended up in my travel lane," Myers recalled.

After the crash, Myers said he saw the driver strip down to his boxers and then try to flee on foot.

"He is walking down Old Mill Lane … in his underwear. This guy is obviously drunk," Myers told a dispatcher in the 911 call.

Myers remained on the phone and rushed over to the couple, who appeared to be trapped in their car.

Dover fire and rescue personnel were on their way to another call when they approached the accident scene.

Myers stayed on the line until Rollinsford police arrived at the scene.

At the time of the crash, Myers didn't know that the victims were newlyweds.

"I didn't even know they were from out of state. I just knew there were two people in a car who were seriously hurt," he said. "It's heartbreaking. I've had the whole range of emotions … angry, sad," he said.

Myers hopes other drivers hear his message and will dial 911 if they notice anything suspicious on the road, but, he said, "It doesn't change what happened."

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