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Merrimack Valley

December 8, 2012

Driver injured, fire station damaged in Methuen crash

METHUEN — Four firefighters sleeping in the East End station at the skewed intersection of East and Swan streets were jarred awake early yesterday morning when a Mercedes SUV slammed head-on into the building.

The driver, who was seriously injured, was pinned inside his mangled car and the entire left side of the building was pushed off the foundation as a result of the 3 a.m. crash, said Fire Chief Steven Buote.

Jose Almonte, 42, of Methuen, was taken to Lawrence General Hospital. His condition was unavailable last night but Buote said he may be transferred to a Boston hospital. He said he heard that Almonte may have a broken pelvis, possibly caused by his seat belt. Police said Almonte will be summonsed for driving while under the influence of liquor and a marked lanes violation.

“He has significant injuries,” Buote said. No firefighters were injured, he added, but they were “rattled” by the sound and impact of the crash.

The accident is just the latest in a long line of incidents at the station, according to the chief.

“That building has been hit many times,” he said. A utility pole out front has been replaced at least a dozen times. The fire station doors have been damaged. Other vehicles have passed right across the driveway of the station and ended up in an adjacent gas station. Firefighters’ cars, which are parked behind the building, have been struck. Even firefighters sitting outside have had some close-calls.

Because of the poor location and the age and small size of the building - it was built in 1918 for much smaller trucks - a study completed five years ago concluded that a new station be built elsewhere in the city. Due to the $4 million pricetag, however, that recommendation was shelved.

Now, however, there may be a fresh argument for replacement. Buote said the accident caused “severe structural damage.”

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