BELFAST — First came the sound of a crash that broke the afternoon calm Thursday in downtown Belfast. Then came the screaming, as a mother frantically determined whether her 2-year-old son had been injured in the car accident that badly damaged his stroller.
According to police, George Sewell, 51, of Belfast thought he was backing into Main Street from a parking spot next to the Army-Navy Store building at about 2 p.m., but instead drove forward onto the crowded sidewalk.
“When he was able to react, he hit the gas instead of the brake,” Officer Wendell Ward of the Belfast Police Department said, adding that Sewell was driving a borrowed car.
The accelerating Nissan Maxima jumped the curb and hit the stroller, a bench on which the boy’s aunt had been sitting and cracked the wall of the building before finally coming to rest on the sidewalk.
The toddler was scared but seemed to be fine, according to Ward, who added that paramedics checked him out in the Belfast Ambulance. No one else was injured in the accident, the officer said.
“It’s just a wonder he wasn’t hurt. It really is,” Ward said.
The impact broke the rear wheels right off the family’s high-end Bugaboo stroller, which had been facing toward the building, the officer said.
“We heard a screech. The car came at [the mother] — it squashed the stroller,” said bystander Pat Bruccoleri, who had been looking at baseball caps outside the store just before the crash. “The baby was in the stroller. It was horrible.”
Minutes after the accident, the child’s mother, Alexandria Payard, 42, of New York, was holding her son and crying as bystanders came to comfort her.
A shaken-looking Sewall lifted his own 3-year-old boy from the Nissan and sat on the sidewalk with his head in his hands.
“He’s just really upset that it happened,” Ward said later in the afternoon. “He keeps playing over and over in his mind what could have happened.”
Marc Box of Belmont said that he had been walking up to the Belfast Game Loft, next to the Army-Navy Store, when he saw Sewall’s car “pop the curb.”
“I’m just glad he wasn’t a couple inches over. He would have crushed that stroller,” Box said. “That baby’s very lucky.”
Later, Payard and her husband brought their 2-year-old to the Waldo County General Hospital emergency room to have him checked out again, Ward said. The medical staff said that he appears to be fine, but asked the family to keep an eye on him for the next day or so.
They will be in the Belfast area on vacation until Saturday — but won’t be without a stroller during the rest of their stay, Ward said. Jill Lepow, who owns Midcoast Family Rentals of Belfast, read about the family’s plight online and decided to offer a loaner stroller identical to the one that had been broken. The Bugaboo is worth $1,000, Lepow said.
“As a mother myself, I would be distraught if it were me,” she said. “I offered the stroller, and they were very happy. They’re nice people.”