Gardner man, 31, dies in fall from bus

Trooper finds two passengers lying on Route 2

POLICE CITE ‘FRIENDLY HORSEPLAY’ Thomas Johnson (left) died at the scene, while Seth Davis, 34, of Winchendon, was in serious condition yesterday. POLICE CITE ‘FRIENDLY HORSEPLAY’
Thomas Johnson (left) died at the scene, while Seth Davis, 34, of Winchendon, was in serious condition yesterday.
By Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / April 4, 2011

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A trip home from a New Hampshire brewery ended tragically Saturday night in Shirley, when two men who possibly engaged in “friendly horseplay’’ fell out of the bathroom window of a tour bus, with one man dying and the other suffering serious injuries, State Police said.

While authorities released few details yesterday about the episode, the family of the man identified as the deceased, Thomas Johnson, 31, of Gardner, was desperately searching for answers.

“I’m very confused [about] how two people could fall out of a window on a bus,’’ said Johnson’s mother, Katherine Roza of Lake Elsinore, Calif., in an emotional phone interview.

“This is ridiculous. There’s some kind of negligence here.’’

State Police said in a statement that alcohol was believed to be a factor in the men’s fall.

According to the statement, a trooper responding to an unrelated incident saw Johnson and Seth Davis, 34, of Winchendon, lying in the breakdown lane of Route 2 westbound just after 10:20 p.m.

The bus driver called State Police and reported that someone had fallen out of the vehicle, the statement said.

The driver called within minutes of the men falling, State Police Sergeant Matthew Murray, a spokesman, said in a phone interview.

Johnson died at the scene and Davis was taken to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, State Police said. Davis was listed in fair condition yesterday, according to the nursing supervisor.

Murray said investigators believe the two men may have engaged in “friendly horseplay’’ before falling out the window, and that there was “not necessarily any type of aggressive interaction’’ between them.

State Police spokesman David Procopio said investigators interviewed passengers and the driver throughout the night Saturday.

State Police referred further questions to the Worcester district attorney’s office. A spokesman for Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. declined to comment, except to confirm that State Police detectives attached to his office are investigating.

No charges had been filed as of yesterday, State Police said.

Roza said her son served as a cook in the US Marine Corps and was running his own tiling business at the time of his death. She said he lived with his girlfriend, Jennifer Cullen, in Gardner.

“He was a wonderful boy,’’ she said.

Her husband, Martin Roza, described his stepson as sensitive and warm and said he was an organ donor.

“Thomas was able to save a life today,’’ he said.

The Rozas said they had suggested that Johnson move out West to pursue an acting career because of his good looks.

“He kind of looked a little bit like George Clooney,’’ his mother said.

Martin Roza said the family had never heard of Davis. He knew his stepson had gone on the trip with friends, but he did not know their names.

Davis’s relatives could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Johnson leaves a twin brother, James Nicholas Johnson, 31, of Voluntown, Conn.; a sister, Amanda Katherine Gurne, 30, and his father, Richard Johnson, both of Michigan, the Rozas said.

Johnson and Davis were passengers on a Colonial Tours of Boston bus, which was returning from a trip to the Redhook Ale Brewery in Portsmouth, N.H., and bound for Gardner, State Police said.

Neither the bus company nor a spokeswoman for the brewery could be reached for comment yesterday.

Portsmouth, N.H., police Sergeant Chris Roth said in a phone interview that no incidents were reported at the brewery Saturday.

Travis Andersen can be reached at