A Fatal Crash, Then A Second Chance For Martin Hyppolite

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Martin Hyppolite

Richard Lagow hands off to UConn running back Martin Hyppolite during a preseason practice in August. (John Woike / Hartford Courant / August 2, 2013)

STORRS — Martin Hyppolite remembers the 2000 Buick heading straight at him and that's all he remembers.

"It was a second before we hit," the senior running back said Friday as he prepared for his final game in a UConn uniform. "I was semiconscious when the police responded. I had a bad concussion. My head was spinning. I was in and out of consciousness."

"I regained it when I got to the hospital, getting out of the ambulance, when they were setting me up and moving me around. I was starting to talk to the nurse and the police officer about what happened."

By that time, Bruce Larson, a respected retired District Court judge, was dead at the scene of the crash on Route 4 in Durham, N.H. By that time, Hyppolite's longtime friend Ryan Marchant, the driver of the 2004 Chrysler Sebring in which Hyppolite was a passenger, was being airlifted in critical condition to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Eventually, Hyppolite would come to grasp the horror of what had happened at 9 a.m. on Feb. 23, come to accept this experience as life-altering, yet as he lay there in serious condition at Portsmouth Regional Hospital, all he knew was one thing. The pain.

"Everything hurt so badly, I didn't even know I broke my hip," Hyppolite, 23, said. "I felt like I had broken my ribs, broken my sternum, broken my legs."

Among all the deep bruises and cuts on his body, there was one career-threatening injury. Hyppolite had broken his hip, broken the socket in his hip and torn the joint's labrum. For Hyppolite not only to make it back for the season opener in late August against Towson but to run on the field for the Huskies' finale Saturday against Memphis, well, let's just say it is something he will always treasure.

No, Hyppolite's career in Storrs did not turn out as well as he would have liked. No, he did not get all the carries he dreamed of when he left Wakefield (Mass.) High as the school's all-time rushing and scoring leader after a senior year of 1,629 yards and 29 touchdowns. Yet as his mom, his brother and his brother's wife watch from the Rentschler Field stands Saturday, Hyppolite knows he has been blessed with something much more.

"I got a second chance at life, definitely," Hyppolite said. "I'm so happy to have made it to my last game, to have played this whole season despite the injuries from the accident. It's strange to say after all I went through, but this day has kind of snuck up on me, the years have flown by."

"Life is something precious and fragile. Whatever opportunity you get, it might not be the best opportunity, but you've got to make the most of it. Some people don't get those opportunities. Some have their lives cut short. The judge, he passed away that day. I think about that a lot. I'm sorry for the family that lost him."

Judge Larson, 74, was born in Townsend, Mass., served in the U.S. Army and would go on to graduate from Suffolk Law School. He received an associate judge appointment by Gov. John Sununu in 1988 and served as a District Court justice until retiring in 2008. Known for a dry sense of humor, Larson loved living near the coast. He loved ocean sailing. He loved boats. He loved woodworking.

"He was pretty soft-spoken, gentle," said Larson's son Barry, who lives in Fairlee, Vt. "He loved the ocean. He loved being on it."

A memorial to celebrate his dad's life was held in June on the water at Odiorne Point State Park in Rye, N.H.

"For years he had a boat right across from there," Barry Larson said. "It was fitting location. It was a perfect day for it."

Hyppolite said he had gone up to the University of New Hampshire that Friday to hang out with some friends. A tweet by Marchant dated Feb. 22 had read, "Gin and tonic. Mmmmmmmmm." They got up early the next morning. Marchant had to go to work so they left about 45 minutes before their other friends. They were headed eastbound on two-lane Route 4. Larson was headed west.

"I'm sure he was going to get a coffee and bagel at Dunkin' Donuts," Barry Larson said.

The horrible crash took place minutes before 9 a.m. near the state police weigh station.

Marchant, 23, from Wakefield, was indicted by a Strafford County Superior Court grand jury on two counts of negligent homicide. He is accused of being under the influence of liquor and traveling at an unsafe speed while attempting to pass a vehicle in a no-passing zone before the nearly head-on collision with Larson. There also is an aggravated DWI indictment alleging that Marchant caused a collision resulting in serious injury to his passenger, Hyppolite. According to a court spokesman, Marchant waived his arraignment at the end of November, there is a bail order in place and he is scheduled for a dispositional conference hearing on Feb. 5.

Asked if the family had spoken at length about what it feels would be justice in the case, Barry Larson said it had not.

"It's up to the state primarily," he said. "They're pretty much going to do what they need to do. I'm sure that will be sufficient."

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