Almost a year after a Rindge crash that subsequently killed a New Ipswich woman, the driver of the Tesla that split in half and caught fire that night has been indicted in Cheshire County Superior Court.
Travis Olson, 18, of Rindge, was indicted on a misdemeanor vehicular assault charge on Dec. 20.
On the evening of Dec. 26, 2018, Olson was driving east on Perry Road, between Old New Ipswich Road and North Street, in a Tesla SUV when the vehicle left the road and collided with a tree, N.H. State Police Sgt. Sean Eaton said at the scene.
First responders arrived to find both split ends of the Tesla on fire. The batteries powering the vehicle complicated efforts to extinguish the flames, Eaton said.
Olson and another passenger, Chelsea Holombo, 17, of New Ipswich, were taken to Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough with serious but non-life-threatening injuries, according to police.
The third passenger, Nina Colasanto, 19, of New Ipswich, was flown to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Mass. The next month, Colasanto died from her injuries arising from the crash, including burns and broken bones that required surgery, according to Jordan Moody, a pastor at Hope Fellowship Church in Jaffrey, of which Colasanto was a member.
Cheshire County Attorney Chris McLaughlin told The Sentinel Monday that an expert investigation into the crash scene was what caused the charge to be levied nearly a year after the crash.
McLaughlin said assistant county attorneys prosecuting the case consulted an expert report that examined the crash, which led to the determination that Olson’s behavior did not merit more severe felony charges, such as vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide.
“Essentially you look at the conduct resulting in the crash,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin could not specify how fast the Tesla was going, but said speed was the only factor in the crash.
“Speed was a factor, but it wasn’t high, high speed,” he said. “… It wasn’t a situation where somebody was going 90 on a back road.”
The expert’s report was not available at the county courthouse in Keene Monday afternoon.
McLaughlin said Colasanto’s injuries and subsequent death were primarily the result of the fire that ensued after the crash, which he noted was exacerbated by the Tesla’s battery-powered model.
“The fire was caused based on, my understanding is, the design [of the Tesla],” he said.
Olson is set to be arraigned on Jan. 9, according to the court clerk’s office.
Granite Staters will be able to select a third gender indication on state driver’s licenses and state-issued identification cards starting Wednesday.
House Bill 669, which Gov. Chris Sununu let become law in July without his signature, allows cards to be marked “M” for male, “F” for female or “X” for those who identify as neither — known as non-binary gender.
Peter Starkey, executive director of the Keene-based Monadnock Peer Support Agency, said this gender marker is beneficial to non-binary people’s overall mental health.
“It’s been a barrier for many people to have to look at a license that doesn’t represent who they think they are,” he said. “It can cause a lot of stress and anxiety, and something that may seem so little can actually be a big deal for someone’s who been dealing with this their whole life.”
Starkey added clients of the agency, which hosts the only LGBTQ-specific mental health support group in the Monadnock Region, have said this addition is a “huge load off their shoulders.”
New Hampshire is the 13th state to provide this designation, joining bordering states Vermont and Maine. Massachusetts added the option in November.
Each state law is different as to how the “X” is obtained. In New Hampshire, residents must have a form signed by a qualified health care provider — physician, psychologist, nurse practitioner, clinical social worker or clinical mental health worker — confirming this is the gender the person identifies with.
The legal change will cost the state Department of Motor Vehicles $25,000 to implement for system programming, according to the bill.
Palana Belken, trans justice organizer for the American Civil Liberties Union’s New Hampshire chapter, said this option is a huge win for the non-binary community.
“The most important, top-line thing is it’s recognizing this identity is real,” she said. “Something besides just male or female exists and deserves documentation. It doesn’t force them to identify as something they’re not.”
The legislation follows two other recent bills involving LGBTQ+ rights. In 2018, Sununu signed a bill that added gender identity to the state’s anti-discrimination laws and another that banned gay conversion therapy for minors.