Orono man killed in garbage truck accident

Posted Oct. 14, 2009, at 12:30 a.m.

ORONO, Maine — An Orono police sergeant confirmed Tuesday night that a 22-year-old man who died in a tragic accident in Billings, Mont., was from Orono.

Adam Davis, 22, was found dead Saturday morning in the back of a city garbage truck, according to news stories published on the Billings Gazette’s Web site.

According to those reports, authorities believe Davis most likely was sleeping in a downtown Dumpster when it was picked up by a municipal waste collection truck behind a McDonald’s restaurant.

Billings police said it appeared that Davis was trying to get out of his sleeping bag and out of the truck’s hopper, probably after waking up when the trash bin he was sleeping in was overturned into the collection truck.

The newspaper also reported that a Yellowstone County deputy coroner said Davis was found “partially in a sleeping bag” and may have been using the Dumpster for shelter overnight. Temperatures overnight had fallen to 18 degrees, the newspaper indicated.

Davis’ death has been ruled accidental with the coroner declaring that he died of blunt trauma to his chest, from injuries consistent “with the operation of the waste management vehicle,” according to the Gazette.

Orono police Sgt. Scott LaJoie said Tuesday that the police department received a telephone call shortly after 1 p.m. Monday from a Yellowstone County deputy coroner informing them of the death and asking the department to notify Davis’ family members.

The notification was made by Orono police Sgt. Scott Wilcox, LaJoie said. He declined to identify the family.

LaJoie said that Davis was identified by means of documents found on his person as well as tattoos on his body.

Longtime Orono High School English teacher Sanford Phippen said Tuesday evening that Davis was a member of the Class of 2006 and also had worked on the school newspaper the last two years that Phippen served as the adviser.

He called the accident a “terrible thing.”

“He was very friendly, and I think quite bright,” Phippen recalled. “He wanted very badly to be part of journalism.”

A commenter on the Gazette’s Web site who went by the screen name “Mainer” had this to say:

“I knew Adam Davis. He was an aspiring poet, an English major at the University of Maine, and a man of little means in search of work, and of experience, too, something he might distill into his writing.

“In a recent e-mail, received maybe a week and a half ago and sent from Virginia, he said he was bound for Oregon by Greyhound hoping to find there some end-of-season work at an organic farm.

“Doubtless little or no money was found on him, though I would not be surprised if a dog-eared novel by Borges, De Lillo or Joyce were. That was Adam.

“My guess is that Friday night he was laid over in Billings. With the bus station closed and hours to pass in the cold, not knowing of any shelters in a foreign town, he took his fatal refuge in that Dumpster.”

Quoting Lord Byron, the commenter added:

“Fare thee well! and if for ever,

“Still for ever, fare thee well.”

BDN writer Abigail Curtis contributed to this report.

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