Speed a factor in fatal crash

Posted Sept. 23, 2008, at 9:52 p.m.

MONROE, Maine — A Medway man with a history of speeding violations was behind the wheel Monday night when his company truck went off the road, killing one of his passengers.

State police are saying speed was a probable factor in the crash that killed William Russell, 28, and injured three others, all of Medway and employees of Emery Lee & Sons of Millinocket, who were on their way home from a Belfast job site.

Russell died instantly after the construction truck he was traveling in went off Monroe Road at around 8 p.m., slammed into two trees and overturned, pinning another passenger, William York, 37, underneath.

The company pickup truck was driven by James Lee, 43, who retired as a Medway selectman in June. He is the son of Emery Lee and runs the family business with brothers Jeff and Darin and other family members, according to the Emery Lee & Sons Web site.

James Lee reportedly suffered a broken collar bone in the crash that occurred near the intersection of Dahlia Farm and Haley roads. Passenger Chad Brackett, 30, also was injured.

“York was the most seriously injured and had to be freed from the wreck using the Jaws of Life,” Maine State Police spokesman Stephen McCausland said in a statement issued Tuesday. “He was transported to the hospital by the LifeFlight helicopter.”

“Speed is a likely factor” in the crash, McCausland said.

Maine Department of Motor Vehicles records for the past 10 years show that Lee has had 15 speeding violations, 14 of those for going more than 15 mph over the speed limit, including one conviction in July where he was going 76 mph in a 50 mph zone. Lee’s license was suspended for that violation and was reinstated Aug. 3. His license has been suspended six times in the past 10 years, DMV records show.

Lee and Brackett were taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor in ambulances, and York was transported there by LifeFlight. An EMMC spokeswoman said Tuesday that the hospital had no information on Lee, Brackett or York.

Russell’s death is the 117th to occur on Maine roads so far this year, McCausland said. He added that at this time last year, highway fatals totaled 133.

Rescue personnel from Monroe, Winterport and Brooks Fire Departments and Brooks Ambulance went to the scene of the wreck, but could do nothing to save Russell.

Six State Police troopers, some of whom are accident reconstruction investigators, were in Monroe investigating the crash, McCausland said.

“I’ve heard no guesstimates” about how fast the truck was traveling, he said Tuesday afternoon.

No charges were filed against Lee, but once the crash report is completed, it will be reviewed by the Waldo County District Attorney’s Office, McCausland said.

This is not the first time tragedy has hit the Millinocket trucking and construction company. Dump truck driver Daniel Williams, 56, died in July 2007 when he lost control of the 10-wheel truck he was driving and went off the road on Route 9 in Aurora pinning him inside.

Emery Lee & Sons “operates a fleet of 40 dump trucks and a large inventory of heavy earthmoving equipment,” the company Web site states. “They currently employ around 30 people during the peak construction period and have trucks and heavy earthmoving equipment working on many major projects throughout the state.”

A receptionist at the company’s Millinocket office said she was the only person in the office on Tuesday and said everything she knew about the accident came from media reports.

“Any accident is tragic,” she said, adding she didn’t feel comfortable answering questions.

A message left for a company official for comment was not returned.

BDN writer Walter Griffin contributed to this article.

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