Bystander puts out car fire after Hermon accident

Posted July 15, 2009, at 11:04 p.m.

HERMON, Maine — Though a two-vehicle crash Wednesday at the intersection of Fuller and Billings roads caused some tense moments for the people involved as well as witnesses and bystanders, it resulted only in minor injuries.

Deputy Jay Hallett of the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department said the outcome could have been much worse had the three people involved not been wearing their seat belts and if the family that runs a nearby redemption center had not had a fire extinguisher on hand.

According to Hallett, the accident occurred about 5:10 p.m. as Mark Hogencamp, 34, of Bangor was heading west on Fuller Road. He sneezed while nearing a stop sign.

The Rent-A-Center delivery van he was driving then rolled through the intersection and T-boned a red Nissan compact car driven by Tristan Hurlburt, 21, of Raleigh, N.C.

The impact pushed the Nissan into a ditch, where the car caught on fire, Hallett said. Though Hurlburt was able to make it out safely, his 16-year-old passenger, whose name was withheld because of his age, was trapped.

Though their station is nearby, Hermon fire crews were still en route when the fire began. Hallett said the main concern at that point was that the teenager would be burned and the car might explode.

Fortunately for the teenager, Warren Curtis heard the commotion and came out to see what was happening.

Curtis’ wife, Debra Curtis, is the owner of Llama Ostrich Redemption Center and Warren Curtis manages the business, located near their home at the intersection.

Curtis, a former president of the town’s rescue squad, said he and his family were just sitting down for dinner when the crash occurred. When he ran out, the Nissan was on fire and no one had a fire extinguisher handy.

Curtis said he had his son-in-law run back to the house and get one, which he then used to put the fire out.

After the accident, Hallett applauded Warren Curtis’ quick action.

“He went above and beyond,” Hallett said. “He potentially saved the kid’s life.”

When contacted Wednesday evening at his home, Curtis downplayed his role in the rescue.

“I don’t know about that,” he said when told what the deputy said. He said, however, that he was glad he had made a difference.

He said that wasn’t the case for his brother, Charles Curtis, who burned to death about 10 years ago when the tractor-trailer in which he was riding went off Interstate 95 in Sherman and caught fire.

“You know, people should carry fire extinguishers in their cars. With my brother, they couldn’t put the fire out because no one had one,” he said.

After the car fire was extinguished, Hurlburt pulled his passenger out of the car, Curtis said.

Hallett said the teenager then was taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor for treatment of minor injuries, mostly scrapes and bruises.

Neither Hogencamp nor Hurlburt, who was in the area visiting his parents in Hermon, was injured, Hallett said.

Both vehicles were heavily damaged in the crash and likely will be declared total losses, Hallett said.

He said Hogencamp was summoned for failure to yield at a stop sign.

Hallett said he was assisted at the accident scene by Maine State Police Trooper Chris Hashey and Trooper Chris Foxworthy and Penobscot County Deputies Tom Burgess and Garrit McKee.

dgagnon@bangordailynews.net

990-8189

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