Clearwater historian, fire assistant dies after crash in Vermont

CLEARWATER — A local mother who worked for nearly a decade as a historian and assistant for Clearwater Fire & Rescue died Monday, the second fatality in a Vermont car crash that also injured four others.

Karen Keegan, 53, who lived in Clearwater with significant other Robert Gorges, 70, was critically injured about 6 p.m. Friday when another car smashed into the one they were in on Route 62 in Berlin, according to police. The driver who veered into the wrong lane and caused the crash, George Huntington, died at the scene.

Keegan and Gorges were riding with Gorges' ex-wife Carol Rasmussen, 65, of Fort Lauderdale, his daughter Kelly Holland, 42, of Barre, Vt., and Gorges' 10-year-old granddaughter, all of whom were injured, said family friend John Robarts, 56. The group had come together to celebrate the granddaughter's graduation from elementary school.

Keegan's daughter, Windi, said family members made the decision Monday to remove her mother from life support about 5:30 p.m. at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., Robarts said.

Gorges is still recovering, said his mother, Helen Gorges, 92, who lived with him and Keegan at 529 S Crest Ave. The other passengers "will probably stay in the hospital for some time," Robarts said.

Keegan began working with Clearwater's library in 1996 before transferring to Fire & Rescue three years later, said city spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts. At the department, Keegan greeted visitors, answered phones and compiled clippings and photos of more than a century of Clearwater history. She also served as a member of the city's Community Emergency Response Team.

"Our hearts go out to her family. We are all shocked and saddened by her death," Clearwater Fire Chief Jamie Geer said in a statement Tuesday. "Karen is a part of our family, and we too feel a great loss. She will be missed greatly."

Keegan, a Florida transplant with a lingering Massachusetts accent, enjoyed bike rides on the Pinellas Trail, Robarts said.

"She had a lot of energy. She didn't take a lot of nonsense from anybody," Robarts said. "She would bide her time until the right moment, but when she did have something to say, it was always a zinger."

Drew Harwell can be reached at dharwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

Clearwater historian, fire assistant dies after crash in Vermont 06/23/09 [Last modified: Monday, June 29, 2009 1:13pm]

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