Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 170

A brief introduction:
My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” But that all changed as of January 9th 2001.

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


My old friend, Allan Traylor, came up to our home in New Hampshire to share our grief. He brought Paul and Barbara Weatherbee with him. Paul and Barbara were very important to us because they helped lay the groundwork for our strong Christian faith. I remember the three of them standing in our kitchen patiently listening to us talk about Adam. I think I read them some of the poetry Adam had written. They shared some memories of Adam with us too. It was very meaningful to Mal and I that Allan, Paul and Barbara came to be with us. But I mostly remember how difficult it was for me to talk about Adam without crying. If I couldn’t hold myself together in my own house with close friends who loved us, how on earth could I stand up in front of dozens of people at the upcoming memorial service?

My youngest brother, Rick, came up and he went to the accident site with my brother-in-law Greg to gather up the items that were scattered on the ground during the process of the rescue squad getting Adam out of the wrecked car. They also went to the junkyard where the car was taken (Greg knew I wouldn’t want to see the crushed car) and recovered all of Adam’s stuff. There were piles of clothes, lots of trash, hundreds of music CDs, and the briefcase I had given him when he was a young kid containing some beads and his autographed picture of Davy Jones of The Monkees. Most of it was still soaked with diesel fuel so not too much was salvageable. Greg brought it to his home and spread it out on tarps in his garage so we could go through it. We kept Adam’s CDs, a few items of clothing and his briefcase.

Greg and I spent many hours putting together music for the upcoming memorial service. We listened to old audio tapes of Adam singing at his elementary school and watched hours of home movies on video tape, trying to determine what would be the most meaningful songs and snippets of dialog to celebrate Adam’s life. The people who would come to the memorial service knew Adam at various points in his life so we thought we should share a broad range of songs that reflected his whole life. Seeing Adam on videotape made this an emotional time for us all, but we knew we had to finish this soon.

When the local newspaper was delivered, the front page featured the following story:

“Gilford man, 21, dies in crash”

“A Gilford man was killed on Tuesday when his car collided head-on with a dump truck on Route 106. Police say that the man was in the process of making a U-turn when the accident occurred.

“According to a press release issued by the Belmont Police Department, Adam Howley, 21, no address given, was transported to Lakes Region General Hospital by the Belmont Fire Department ambulance where he was pronounced dead from injuries suffered in the collision.

“The accident occurred at 11:19 a.m. while Howley was traveling north in his Honda Accord near the intersection of Lamprey and Farrarville Roads.

“Police say that Howley’s vehicle crossed the center lane of Route 106 just south of the intersection and struck the side of an unloaded dump truck driven by Christopher Fortin, 44, of Belmont. Fortin was traveling south when the accident occurred. He was uninjured in the crash, police said.

“Once on the scene, police found that Howley’s vehicle had spun to the side of the road in the northbound lane, while the dump truck had spun in the opposite direction, landing in an area just off the southbound portion of the roadway.

“Traffic on a portion of Route 106 was detoured while police and firefighters picked through large amounts of debris that were scattered all over the road.

“According to the police report, Howley’s vehicle was totally destroyed and the dump truck received substantial damage to the driver’s side.

“‘It appears that the car that was headed northbound was making a U-turn to change directions when it went in the path of the dump truck traveling in the opposite direction,’ Belmont Police Chief David Nielsen said at the accident scene. ‘The vehicles collided in the southbound lane causing the car to spin into the northbound shoulder of the road, and the truck to spin into an area off of the southbound lane,’ Nielsen said.

“According to the Belmont Police, Howley is from Gilford and was attending an out-of-state university. No further information on him was immediately available. Belmont Fire Department, the Gilmanton Police Department, the Belknap County Sheriff’s Department and the New Hampshire State Police all assisted Belmont Police Department at the scene.”

When I first read this, I was stunned by the headline referring to Adam as a “man.” I had not thought of him that way. To me he was my child, my kid. Then, after thinking about the story, I became more upset. I had talked with the Police Chief Nielsen and based on the truck driver’s statement, he knew that Adam was not trying to make an illegal U-turn. Adam had fallen asleep and his car slowly drifted across the lane. I called the newspaper reporter and asked him to correct this story. During our short conversation the reporter lamented that the police wouldn’t let him close enough to the accident scene to get a “good” photograph of the wrecked car. I ended my phone call before I lost my temper with him. This is what he wrote:

“Accident victim may have dozed off.”

“While police initially thought a U-turn was to blame for the motor vehicle accident which claimed the life of 21-year-old Adam Howley of Gilford, officials and the driver of the dump truck which was hit now believe that it is more likely that the victim fell asleep at the wheel or was distracted.

“There is no question from police or the driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident that Howley’s Honda Accord crossed the center line before it struck the side of Christopher Fortin’s unloaded dump truck.

“The questions which remain are why Howley crossed into the southbound lane of Route 106 and why he failed to see the large truck traveling in the opposite direction.

“Fortin, who watched the accident unfold in front of his eyes, maintains that Howley wasn’t in the process of doing a U-turn when he swerved and struck the truck. He talked about what he saw through the windshield of his dump truck moments before it was hit. ‘I can’t say exactly what happened, but it seemed to me like he must have been asleep. I saw him come into my lane and I pulled into the breakdown lane. When something like that happens, the first thing you do is to give the person the entire road to get corrected and I moved over as much as possible,’ said Fortin.

“He added that Howley’s vehicle continued in its path with the driver unresponsive to the dangers which lay ahead.

‘“He was in my lane for a long period of time. I have been driving for a long time and I have never seen anything like it. I don’t think he knew my truck was even there. Looking at this right in front of me was very unusual and scary,’ remarked Fortin.

“While Fortin’s testimony points toward Howley having fallen asleep at the wheel, local authorities say they can’t be sure why the car traveled into the southbound lane. Detective Steve Crockett of the Belmont Police Department was on the scene following the accident.

‘We aren’t sure what caused him to cross the center line. We investigated the matter and concluded that there were no mechanical problems in either of the vehicles that would have caused them to enter into each other’s lanes. He could have dozed off or he could have been distracted. We just don’t know for sure,’ said Crockett.”

After this poorly written article, the same reporter sloppily (and with some misquotes and factual errors) wrote another article about Adam:

“Young man killed in crash remembered as ‘gifted’, artistic.”

“The parents of a 21-year-old local man, who was killed in a motor vehicle accident in Belmont on Tuesday, say their son was an aspiring actor who was preparing to leave for college in the spring.

“‘Adam was enrolled to start college in the spring semester at University of Rhode Island. He was going to leave on Friday for school,’ said Paul Howley, Adam’s father.

“Adam Howley, 12 Williamsburg Ave., Gilford, died at Lakes Region General Hospital from injuries received when his car crossed the center line on Route 106 and collided with a dump truck.

“On Wednesday, his father talked about the loss of his son saying that when the accident occurred, Adam was returning from an appointment at the University of Rhode Island.

“‘When you hear about something like that you are just in shock. He had called me in the morning from the school at 8 a.m. and he said he would see me in a little while,’ lamented the father.

“While a definite answer as to what caused the accident that claimed Adam’s life has not been made, his parents say they have only begun to deal with the sudden loss of their son.

“‘We are making arrangements today to take care of everything, but it is really tough to be taking out old pictures and looking back at his life,’ said Paul.

“Paul and his wife Marilyn are originally from Massachusetts, where Adam graduated from Lexington Christian Academy.

“‘When he got out of high school, Adam went to school for one year at The Boston Conservatory of Music majoring in theater,’ Paul explained. ‘He has always been in plays ever since he was five years old and he knew what he wanted to be. He loved to sing and dance, and it comforts us to know that now he is dancing in Heaven.’

He also said Adam was an extremely gifted individual.

“‘He was a really brilliant kid. He won the Headmaster’s Scholarship for Academics when he was in high school and also won a Massachusetts Drama award. He was a fun-loving and truly caring person. Adam was always happy and we will really miss him,’ Paul said.

“He said Adam had been working at Friendly’s Restaurant on Union Avenue in Laconia since July. Personnel who worked with him at the establishment said that Adam will be missed very much.

“‘Sunday was his last day because he was returning to college. He was a prep cook here and a waiter. Around here, he was one of the gang and everyone loved him,’ said Mike Kearney, general manager at Friendly’s.

“‘He had a really great personality and was truly funny. Last Sunday he dyed his hair red because of a play he was doing. He was a very young man and this is very sad,’ Kearney said, adding that approximately 300-400 people are expected at Adam’s memorial service.”

Next chapter: preparations for the memorial service.
Photo: Adam's accident scene


  1. I can't even imagine looking at that accident sign...oh my god. Oh, that's awful.

  2. Cake,
    It's a tough image for me to think about. Thanks again for reading the story!