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Man killed in crash with Secret Service agents had 'extensive' criminal history

By Niraj Chokshi and Carol D. Leonnig | The Washington Post | Published: December 30, 2015

A man who died Tuesday after crashing his car into a vehicle carrying four Secret Service agents in New Hampshire was driving without a valid license and had an "extensive" criminal history, authorities said.

Bruce Danforth, 45, was driving with two passengers in a four-door Mercury Sable headed north on Route 16 early Tuesday evening when his car crossed into oncoming traffic and slammed into a Ford Taurus carrying the on-duty Secret Service agents, police said in a statement.

Danforth, who died at the scene, lacked a valid license and "was known to this department and has an extensive criminal history," the Wakefield Police Department said. Danforth's two passengers - Natasha Meroski, 35, and Kristina Buswell, 21 - were taken to area hospitals, as were the four Secret Service agents.

"At this time, our personnel have sustained what is described as serious, but non-life-threatening injuries," Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy said in a statement provided to The Washington Post Wednesday morning. "Please join us as we keep all the victims of this accident and their families in our thoughts and prayers."

The Secret Service agents did not belong to any particular candidate's protective detail, but instead were part of a "jump team," working as additional security and standing post at campaign events. They were en route from one campaign event to another at the time of the accident, a government official said.

All are believed to have worked in field offices in the New England area.

Hillary Clinton was traveling between campaign stops in the area around the same time as the accident, greeting a crowd in Berlin, N.H., by describing the drive to the town hall as challenging. New Hampshire saw its first big snow of the season Tuesday, making roads dangerous throughout the state.

"I was saddened and concerned to hear about the serious accident that occurred last night," Clinton said in a statement. "My husband and I send our prayers and condolences to all the victims and their families. We are grateful everyday for the service, dedication, and professionalism of the U.S. Secret Service."

Tuesday's deadly collision underscores the dangers - to Secret Service agents and others - of a job that requires crisscrossing the nation to protect politicians and foreign dignitaries.

In 2012, an undercover agent struck and killed a Brooklyn mother of five. Two Secret Service vehicles fatally struck a pedestrian in Maryland early one rainy morning in 2009.

Agents have died in such accidents, too. In 2008, Hillary Clinton canceled a campaign rally after one of her Secret Service escorts was killed in a Dallas accident. And, in 1983, three agents assigned to protect Queen Elizabeth II were killed in Yosemite National Park after their vehicle was hit by a local sheriff's patrol car.

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The Washington Post's Anne Gearan contributed.
 

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