A 35-year-old Wilton man and father of four children has been identified by authorities as the person who was killed in Tuesday’s fiery two-vehicle crash in Strong.

The driver of the second vehicle has been charged with drunken driving.

Rusty Knox, 35, of Temple Road in Wilton, was identified positively Friday by the Office of Chief Medical Examiner as the deceased driver of the Chevrolet pickup involved in the crash, according to Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols.

Knox was married with four children, police said.

The driver of a GMC pickup truck, Mark Garner, 24, of Rangeley, faces a class B felony charge of operating under the influence resulting in death. He was released Thursday from the Franklin County Jail in Farmington on $15,000 cash bail.

Garner and the two passengers in his truck were able to escape their vehicle after it caught fire. After the crash, Garner admitted that “he drank too much to be driving” and that “he was driving too fast,” according to a police affidavit filed by the lead investigator in the case, Deputy Andrew Morgan, of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.

Knox’s family was notified of his death Tuesday night by the sheriff’s office, who at that time presumed the identity of the driver to be Knox, based on the vehicle’s registration. His identity was not released until Friday afternoon, when the medical examiner determined positive identification using DNA testing. Knox’s cause of death had not been released as of Friday afternoon, according to Nichols.

Knox was driving south on Lambert Hill Road around 7:45 p.m. Tuesday when the GMC pickup truck driven by Garner and heading north crossed the centerline and the two vehicles collided head-on. Both vehicles burst into flames upon impact, and Knox, the sole occupant of his truck, was unable to escape and died.

Initial efforts to extinguish the flames and remove Knox were unsuccessful, according to a police affidavit. Once the flames were extinguished, the Strong Fire Department was able to extract his body from the truck, according to a news release Nichols issued Tuesday.

The two passengers in Garner’s truck also told Morgan, the investigator, that Garner was driving at a high rate of speed, one stating that he was driving 80 mph before the crash. The same passenger told Morgan that Garner had been drinking since about 5:30 p.m., when he arrived at her residence. Garner told police he drank about four to six beers prior to the crash, according to the affidavit.

The woman said she drove Garner and the other male passenger to Strong to pick up new tires for his truck. However, after they picked up the tires, Garner decided to drive because he thought she was driving too slow, the affidavit states.

The male passenger said that “Garner wanted to show off how fast his truck could go, which was driving back to Phillips,” Morgan wrote in his affidavit.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate


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