Community shaken after crash kills teacher

Flowers are left on the shoulder of Route 11 on Friday morning near Stockholm, as a memorial to Miranda J. Vari, who died as the result of a car crash there Thursday afternoon. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

STOCKHOLM — The morning after the St. Lawrence County community learned of Miranda J. Vari’s death, a butterfly balloon flew among sunflowers and daisies on the shoulder of Route 11.

The mother, teacher and coach died Thursday afternoon in a two-car crash, a few miles north of the village of Potsdam. She was 36.

Ms. Vari, a 2002 graduate of Norwood-Norfolk Central School, was an adult education teacher for St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES and lived in Brasher Falls. An online fundraiser has been set up for her family, and the GoFundMe link is accessible through the union Facebook page for BOCES members of the Federation of Instructional Support Personnel.

By 6 p.m. Friday, more than 200 people had donated a collective $11,635 of a $20,000 goal for expenses and for her children.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Buck Funeral Home in Norwood.

In the mid-day sun Thursday, Ms. Vari was traveling northeast when she struck a stopped car at the intersection of Route 11 and Old Closed Road, a no-outlet residential street.

A Route 11 resident called 911 at 12:32 p.m., and a few neighbors converged to help.

Wanda Keleher said she was inside her home when her 14-year-old daughter heard a loud noise coming from the road and saw Ms. Vari’s vehicle turn on its side.

Ms. Keleher, instructing her daughter to stay home, quickly approached the scene near the edge of her driveway.

“I haven’t slept,” she said. “It’s not something you can easily get out of your head.”

A neighbor of Ms. Keleher’s said Thursday’s crash — ruled accidental by state police — is not the only recent collision on the stretch of Route 11 between Potsdam and Stockholm, recalling at least two other serious incidents in the last year.

A 28-year-old Nicholville man died in October 2019, in a van and tractor-trailer crash farther north on Route 11 near County Route 49.

St. Lawrence County Emergency Services dispatched fire and rescue responders from Potsdam and West Stockholm to Thursday’s site, which was blocked to regular traffic for several hours between Regan Road to the south and County Route 57 to the north.

Police determined Ms. Vari was driving northeast in her 2003 Chevrolet Trailblazer when she struck the rear of a 2011 Honda CRV, operated by 72-year-old Donna Blanchard, of Potsdam.

Ms. Blanchard’s vehicle was reportedly stopped on Route 11, facing northeast, waiting for oncoming traffic to pass so she could turn left onto Old Close Road. State police say Ms. Vari’s vehicle ran off the road after clipping Ms. Blanchard’s vehicle, struck a grassy embankment and rolled over.

Ms. Blanchard was taken to Canton-Potsdam Hospital where she was treated for chest pain and later released.

St. Lawrence County Coroner June H. Wood pronounced Ms. Vari dead on scene at about 1 p.m. and believes she died on impact. Ms. Vari, she said, was ejected and became trapped under her vehicle. Her death was determined to be caused by a skull fracture.

An autopsy was performed at Canton-Potsdam Hospital Thursday night, and state police publicly confirmed Ms. Vari’s identity Friday afternoon.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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