Driver goes express ‘postal'

| 29 Sep 2011 | 09:32

MILFORD - Police are trying to figure out what happened Tuesday afternoon to send an 85-year-old local man on a demolition spree at the West Harford Street post office. Witnesses said the man, who borough police identified as Andrew Tartaglia of Milford, came out of the post office at about 2:30 p.m. and got into his Lincoln Continental sedan with his wife, Helen Tartaglia, 84. He then put the car in reverse and apparently floored the accelerator. The car bolted across the driveway over the curb by the neighboring Sunoco station, knocking down a stop sign and plowing into a Nissan pickup, already parked at a pump. The impact tossed the pickup up against one of the gasoline pumps. There was no fire. Witnesses said that a few moments after the initial impact, Tartaglia put his car in drive and accelerated again, this time heading back to the post office. More signs went down along with the post office flag pole, a row of newspaper vendor boxes and a Fed-Ex drop-off box, as Tartaglia launched the big car into the building’s lobby doors, where it finally came to rest. On her way out of the Milford Post Office, Terry Balton, a resident of Milford, held the door for the man behind her. Little did she know at the time, he was the one that would be behind the wheel of a car that would trace its path right back inside. Balton witnessed the man enter his old “Cadillac-like” car where his wife was waiting. He then proceeded to reverse the car, according the Balton, but did not stop. After hearing a loud screech, she turned around to see the car back into a blue pickup which was getting gas at the time. Balton called 911 as a crowd started to form around the scene of the accident. “Then he just floored it,” recalled Balton. With his wife still inside, the man and his car went full speed ahead in the same direction from where they came. “The newsstand and the flagpole seemed to slow it down a little, and it slammed into the post office.” Balton recalled seeing people dodge out of the car’s way, some even running. At the time of the second collision, she was still on the phone with the 911 operator and said, “Now [the accident] is at the post office.” Milford Borough Police Chief Gary Williams said the cause of the incident was under investigation, but there was no immediate explanation from the driver for his actions. “I tried to talk to him but he was incoherent,” Williams said. The Milford Fire Department Ambulance transported the Tartaglias to Bon Secours Community Hospital in Port Jervis. The extent of their injuries was unavailable. Bannister Bray, of Cuba, New Mexico, was the driver in the pickup at the pump. He complained of rib pain and was transported to Bon Secours by a Westfall Fire Department Ambulance. The combination of the police investigation, fire equipment, ambulances and numerous bystanders slowed afternoon traffic in normally congested Milford to a crawl for more than an hour. Surrounded by yellow tape, the lobby closed for the remainder of the afternoon. A workman began efforts to secure the post office for the night, as Fed-Ex driver recovered envelopes from his crumpled drop-off box. Postmaster Henry Radcliff stood amid broken glass behind the buckled doors as he pointed out the weakened portico above the doors. Radcliff said there was no one in the lobby at the time of the incident and no one was injured inside. “People were scattering though. We were very lucky,” he said.