Biathlete dies after being hit by car

Posted June 22, 2009, at 8:39 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:46 a.m.

FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — A biathlete who was training at the Maine Winter Sports Center was struck by a car and killed Sunday evening in Fort Fairfield.

Fort Fairfield Police Chief Joseph Bubar said Monday that 19-year-old William “Willie” Neal, who lived in Jackson Hole, Wyo., before coming to Maine, was roller-skiing with a training partner around 8:30 p.m. when he was struck by a car driven by 18-year-old Erik Lundquist of Fort Fairfield.

The training partner was also a Maine Winter Sports Center athlete, and the two were training at the Nordic Heritage Sport Club in Presque Isle. The club is operated by the MWSC.

Bubar said Lundquist was heading west on North Caribou Road in a 1997 Eagle Talon when he came upon Neal, who was heading in the same direction.

Neal was struck from behind, according to Bubar.

It was not clear Monday whether Neal died at the scene.

Neither Lundquist nor Neal’s training partner was injured.

The chief said that while the night was dim, darkness had not yet completely fallen when the accident occurred.

Lundquist reportedly had just graduated from high school.

Bubar said no further information could be released, citing the ongoing investigation.

Alcohol is not believed to have been involved, according to the chief.

The biathlon is a winter sport that combines Nordic skiing and rifle marksmanship.

Andy Shepard, president of the MWSC, said Neal was named to the MWSC Regional Biathlon Team last month.

Neal came to the MWSC after spending time with Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation and his hometown club, the Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club.

Shepard said Neal had been accepted to Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vt., but had deferred admission for a year so he could train full time with the goal of making the 2010 World Junior Biathlon Team.

Neal was a Wyoming delegate pledged to Barack Obama at the National Democratic Convention held last summer in Denver.

He told The Associated Press in May 2008 that he gravitated to Obama’s “message of hope and change.”

The MWSC said in a press release Monday that investigators indicated the skiers were on the correct side of the road when the accident occurred.

Shepard described Neal in the release as a “talented young athlete” and a “smart and inquisitive young man.”

“He was a role model others looked up to and we were excited to have him join our program,” Shepard said in the release. “This is a devastating blow to the entire U.S. Nordic skiing family and on behalf of the volunteers, athletes, staff and board of the MWSC, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Neal family.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

jlbdn@ainop.com

538-6567

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