Police probing death of biathlete

Posted June 23, 2009, at 7:45 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:46 a.m.

FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — The Fort Fairfield Police Department on Tuesday continued its investigation into the death of a teenage biathlete Sunday evening.

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

Neal was pronounced dead at the scene.

Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland said Tuesday that Maine State Police had reconstructed the accident scene.

The 19-year-old and his training partner, who was not injured in the accident, were training with the Maine Winter Sports Center at the group’s Nordic Heritage Sport Club in Presque Isle.

Lundquist was heading west on North Caribou Road in a 1997 Eagle Talon when he came upon Neal and his training partner, who were heading in the same direction. Neal was struck from behind and killed.

Lundquist, who reportedly had just graduated from high school, was not injured.

Alcohol is not believed to have been involved.

McCausland said that information gathered by state police during the reconstruction would be provided to the Fort Fairfield Police Department for its final investigative report. McCausland said he was not sure when the report would be completed.

Fort Fairfield police said Tuesday they had no new information to release from the investigation.

Neal interned this spring in the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., where he researched and worked on environmental projects, according to The Associated Press.

Last summer, he served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and supported Barack Obama. He told The Associated Press in May 2008 that he gravitated to Obama’s message of hope and change.

Neal served as executive director of Cookies 4 Climate Change, a Wyoming-based environmental organization that promotes awareness of climate change among youth. In his biography on the group’s Web site, Neal said his experience skiing in places around the world had impressed upon him the importance of environmental activism.

“Being in a sport that is so climate dependent, it is important for me to see that our environment is well preserved, and that my peer group understands the dangers that global warming poses to our world,” Neal wrote. He described his parents as business owners and said he was “committed to helping businesses and organizations become more environmentally friendly.”

Neal’s voice remained on the company voicemail Tuesday afternoon.

Neal won eight individual state Nordic racing titles during his four years racing for Jackson Hole High School. He was training at the Maine Winter Sports Center this summer with hopes of qualifying for the 2010 U.S. Junior World Championship biathlon team. Biathlon is a winter sport that combines Nordic skiing and rifle marksmanship.

Neal was named to the Maine Winter Sports Center Regional Biathlon Team last month, according to Andy Shepard, president of the organization.

The athlete graduated from high school in May 2008 and put off college for a year to ski with the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation’s Olympic Development Team.

Shepard said in the release that Neal had been accepted to Middlebury College in Vermont, but had deferred admission for a year so he could train full time.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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