By Alana Melanson
MASON, N.H. -- Nicholas DeSimone, principal of Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School in Fitchburg, has been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol after a Sept. 29 crash that involved a school-owned vehicle.
Police Chief Barry Hutchins said police responded to the report of an accident on Meetinghouse Hill Road at 4:36 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, and found DeSimone, 42, of Ashburnham, Mass., had crashed the yellow 1965 Chevrolet pickup truck he was driving into a stone wall, and the vehicle came to rest after going down a shallow embankment.
He did not have the full extent of DeSimone's injuries, but said he suffered facial lacerations in the crash, and was transported to St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua.
Hutchins said officers at the scene saw signs of what they believed to be alcohol impairment, but because of DeSimone's injuries they were not able to conduct the standard field-sobriety tests or an alcohol-breath test. At the hospital a blood test was performed, but the results are protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, he said.
The legal blood-alcohol limit in New Hampshire is .08 percent.
Hutchins said DeSimone was not the registered owner of the vehicle he was driving, but could not say who the registered owner was. He said the truck suffered front-end damage but was not totaled.
Sentinel & Enterprise file photos from an Aug. 23 event in Westminster, Mass., show DeSimone in front of a light-yellow, older-model pickup truck fitting the same description, which also had the Monty Tech logo emblazoned on the side. At the Westminster Farmers Market that day, DeSimone told the Sentinel & Enterprise the truck was school property and had been rebuilt by Monty Tech students.
A representative of Maillet Auto in Greenville, the company that towed the vehicle Sept. 29, said it was towed to either Lunenburg or Fitchburg, but did not have an exact address.
According to the 9th District Court in Milford, DeSimone was arraigned on Oct. 7 and pleaded not guilty to driving while intoxicated. He is due back in court for a trial start date of Dec. 16.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Monty Tech Superintendent-Director Steven C. Sharek said, "We can confirm that Principal DeSimone was involved in an accident. He was hospitalized and is under a physician's care. Mr. DeSimone is a valued employee and has our well wishes."
Sharek did not respond to questions of whether DeSimone is on administrative leave, paid or not, and whether the vehicle is back in the school's possession.
Several Monty Tech School Committee members were contacted for comment, but few responded or returned calls.
Fitchburg representative LeRoy E. Clark said the committee was informed of the accident at their Wednesday night meeting, but not that DeSimone had been cited.
"I think it's a shame because I think he was doing a fantastic job at the school," Clark said. "The kids really had a lot of respect for him and all."
He said DeSimone has a "tremendous rapport with the student body," and that students cheered for him repeatedly at homecoming last weekend.
Clark said whether DeSimone will still have a job is "in the realm of the administration," and he hopes that a good and fair solution is reached for the school.
"We hire and fire the superintendent," Clark said. "So whatever his decision is, however it's handled, we will evaluate that."
He confirmed that the pickup truck DeSimone crashed belongs to the school, and is often exhibited at town fairs and antique shows.
"It's a 1965 truck, reconditioned by students. It's beautiful, and it has the name Monty Tech all over it," Clark said. "The school uses it as a recruiting tool."
He said he hopes it isn't damaged too badly so it can still be used for such.
Fitchburg representative Thomas Conry Jr. left a message saying he was out of the loop as he has been recuperating from a hip replacement, and didn't want to comment on the incident until he'd been filled in on the details.
After school on Thursday, a group of students congregating across the street from the school said they had been told by the administration that DeSimone had been in an accident, but not much else.
Veronica Johnsson, 18, of Barre, said she had been told DeSimone was on his way to a community-service project with the Junior ROTC, but she doesn't believe that anymore.
Troy Miller, 18, of Westminster, found DeSimone's alleged actions to be hypocritical.
"We're told not to do anything wrong, and then to have him do something like this? That's not right," he said.
Devon Wagner and Conner Thompson, both 17, of Ashburnham, said DeSimone should be honest with the students and own up publicly.
"I think he should have an assembly and talk to us about drunk driving," Wagner said.
Others took the news more lightly.
"Everybody tries to have fun. He just got caught," said Dale McIntosh, 16, of Holden. "I don't think he should be fired."
"I think that he made a mistake, and he probably didn't mean to do it," said Dominic Arsenault, 17, of Ashburnham. "I know him really well."
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