WASHINGTON, Maine — A Whitefield man died Tuesday morning in a car accident that may have been caused by a medical emergency, police officials said.
Burleigh Pratt, 72, was at the wheel of a Buick LeSabre that collided head-on with another car at 9:59 a.m. on Route 17 near Linscott’s Store, according to Trooper Jason Madore of the Maine State Police.
“Witnesses [said] they saw the man slump over the steering wheel moments before the crash,” Madore said in a press release. “His car crossed the centerline of the road and struck the second car head-on.”
The second car — a 2004 Chevy Cavalier driven by 31-year-old Tiffany King of Freedom — was “crushed” in the accident, according to Madore.
“She tried to react and get out of the way but there was just no place to go,” Madore said.
A witness called 911 and the first state trooper arrived about five minutes later, he said.
Pratt was pronounced dead at the scene, Madore said. Emergency crews toiled for about 20 minutes to free his body from the car. They also worked for more than 15 minutes to cut King out of her vehicle using an extrication device. King was taken to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston by LifeFlight helicopter for precautionary reasons, Madore said. The nursing supervisor there couldn’t confirm her status Tuesday evening.
“Given the amount of damage done the vehicle, she was lucky to be blinking her eyes,” Madore said. “The front end was in the driver’s seat.”
King and her passenger, 28-year-old Darrell Mank of Freedom, both were wearing seat belts and the air bags deployed. Mank was taken by ambulance to Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport, was treated and then released Tuesday.
The air bags in Pratt’s car did inflate but he evidently was not wearing a seat belt, Madore said. Speed was “definitely not” a contributing factor in the accident, and altogether about a dozen medical and fire personnel helped at the accident site.
“There’s getting to be more cars on the roads,” Madore said. “Obviously, take due regard for your own safety and watch out for the other person as well, because things do happen. And wear your safety belt.”