MANCHESTER, NH – A former Manchester firefighter and four-term state rep was killed Saturday in a car crash in Bedford, and the victim’s brother, who was behind the wheel, is now charged with negligent homicide.
Eric Palangas, 49, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash on Kilton Road Saturday. His brother, Nicholas Palangas, 50, of Weare, was arrested Sept. 5, 2015, charged with negligent homicide, aggravated driving while intoxicated, and other charges.
Police responded to the rollover accident at about 6:20 p.m. on Sept. 5, reporting that a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle had rolled onto its roof and that someone was possibly trapped underneath.
“One of the three occupants was located within the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene,” said Bedford Police Sgt. Devon Kimball. “During the investigation, it was determined that speed and alcohol appear to be factors in this crash as [Nicholas] Palangas failed to negotiate a curve in the roadway before losing control.”
Manchester Fire District Chief Michael Gamache on Monday night called the accident “extremely unfortunate for all involved.”
He said that even though Eric Palangas was no longer active as a Manchester Firefighter, he was still part of the MFD family. Gamache explained that Palangas served for about nine years with Station 7 on Somerville Street, but was forced to retire in 2004 after getting injured on the job in 2003.
“It feels like it feels when you lose a family friend, or a co-worker. Anyone who ever puts on a badge, no matter how long they’re gone, is always a firefighter,” Gamache said.
“He was always passionate about helping people. Eric served four terms in the state legislature, and he always treated people with empathy. When he went on a call he treated people like family,” Gamache said.
“His nickname was ‘Buckethead.’ I’m not sure where that came from, but he was a gentle giant, and always had a positive demeanor. He was extremely proud of his Greek heritage, and made it known to everyone.”
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Raymond Buckley said he was shocked by the news Monday night of the former state rep, who served in the NH House of Representatives from 2000-2006 and then again from 2012-2014.
“Eric was a big guy, and he always had a big smile on his face. He was a kind and generous person, and he cared very much for the community, for the people of Manchester, his church, the labor movement, the Democratic party. He was just a terrific human being, in every way possible, and this is a loss to the community,” Buckley said.
Nicholas Palangas was held on $50,000 cash bail. He was scheduled for arraignment Sept. 8.
Anyone with information about the accident should contact Bedford Police Sgt. Devon Kimball at 603-472-5113.