Three survive icy river, road rage encounter

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — On Monday afternoon, an incident between the occupants of two vehicles began on Route 302 in North Windham, and escalated 15 miles later, when the person operating the truck bumped the smaller vehicle — sending it toward the snow-packed guardrail and into the Crooked River, according to a representative from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO).

The three people in that vehicle were able to scramble to safety. They were later transported to the Bridgton Hospital and treated for hypothermia and minor injuries, according to Capt. Don Goulet, who handles media inquiries for the CCSO.

“I am told the car impacted the body of water, which was frozen. It broke the ice; and so there was running water all around the car. The water was about four feet deep. The car was submerged,” Goulet said. “At some point, they had to maneuver through the water. So, basically they had to swim to get to shore,” he said, adding the people in the vehicle helped one another get to safety.

“There were some people who stopped. A witness went down to assist, got them into a warm car,” he said.

The person in the second vehicle stayed at the scene until he was interviewed by law enforcement officials, he said.

The accident, which allegedly was a result of road rage, happened around 1:10 p.m. on Monday, he said.

Earlier that afternoon, someone had reported “erratic driving” and “road rage” behavior to CCSO dispatch. The dispatcher was informed the two vehicles were traveling westbound on Route 302, according to a media release.

By the time deputies arrived, “one of the two vehicles had crashed into the Crooked River at the Casco/Naples line,” the media report said.

“The scene was chaotic,” Goulet said.

The vehicular crash prompted the official closure of sections of Route 302 for about five hours, or until 6 p.m. Detours were provided for the traveling public at Route 11 and Route 121, according to local rescue and fire departments. Casco Fire and Rescue Department personnel assisted with alerting and directing traffic, according to Assistant Fire Chief Holly Hancock.

Ambulances from the Towns of Raymond and Casco transported the car crash survivors to the Bridgton Hospital, Hancock said.

As the afternoon progressed, the Naples Fire Department brought the ladder truck to the scene, and detectives took aerial photos of the accident scene, Goulet said.

The immediate and top priority of first responders and the sheriff’s deputies was the safety of the victims, he said. Also, the area was being treated as a crime scene, Goulet said.

“The person in the other vehicle could be charged with a criminal activity,” he said. That depends on the physical evidence and witness statements, and whether the District Attorney’s Office thinks there is a case, he said.

“We are looking at this as an intentional act, that’s where the crime would come in. Hence, the vagueness of information” like the names of the people involved, he said.

The charge “could be reckless conduct with a motor vehicle and/or assault with a deadly weapon. There are different statutes,” he said, adding no charges have been filed yet.

If the incident(s) that caused the wreck was an intentional act(s), then the car wreck elevates to a crime rather than simply a vehicular accident, he explained.

“It depends how the investigation comes out,” he said.

On Tuesday, Goulet reported that it was a continuing investigation. Both vehicles had been towed for the purpose of collecting evidence and so that detectives could analyze the vehicles’ data recorders to figure out the speed and whether gas or the brake was applied before the crash.

Road rage incidents are few and far between for the Cumberland County Sherriff’s deputies, Goulet said. On a daily basis, CCSO dispatch takes calls about erratic driving — people going 20 mph in a 40 mph zone, or swerving back and forth, he said. Reports of road rage are less frequent, he said.

In the case of Monday’s incident, there was “no indication that they knew each other,” Goulet said.

The occupants of the vehicle that landed in the river were still shaken from the experience when first responders arrived.

“All three of them were pretty upset. They were hypothermic, so getting them warm and safe, and securing the scene” was paramount, he said.

“After they were transferred to the Bridgton Hospital, they were interviewed by detectives,” he said.

On Tuesday, the driver of the vehicle had not yet been released from the hospital, reports said.

Goulet agreed the trio was lucky to be alive.

“For those of us who are in law enforcement and who remember ‘The Dukes of Hazard,” it was like that. Their car was airborne. It was airborne from the time it went over the guardrail until it hit the river,” Goulet said.

“It is an unusual event, and a serious event. If this does pan out to be a criminal act, it is very unfortunate,” he said.

Tips to fight road rage

According to Capt. Don Goulet with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, everyone knows what road rage is. Here are some tips for anyone who becomes involved in a road rage situation:

Call 9-1-1. Everyone has a cell phone now-a-days. We always recommend that people call 9-1-1.

If it is possible, drive to a populated area. In rural regions of the country, try to find the most populated spot — a business or place with people around

Keep your doors locked

Try to get a good description of the vehicle. Don’t rely solely on the license plate number because a person could be one number off.

The biggest thing is to not get caught up in the event because it has the potential of escalating.

Only if it is safe to do so, follow the vehicle of the problematic driver. Some bystanders hope to be good witnesses and try to get a plate number or description of vehicle, and could end up in a dangerous situation if an altercation were to occur.

 

 

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