June 19, 2018
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Car careens through Pittsfield apartment building

By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff

PITTSFIELD, Maine — It was a miracle that no one was hurt Friday morning when a car lost control and plowed through the wall of an apartment complex, according to Merita and Joseph Sanborn, a mother and son who were watching television in their living room when the accident happened.

“The car just blew right through the wall,” said Merita. “I thought it looked like smoke and all I could think of was ‘get the fire extinguisher!’”

The smoke turned out to be dust and debris. The next thing Merita heard was the driver of the vehicle, Ruth Collins, 78, of Fairfield, hollering her name and asking if she was OK.

“It turns out I know her from way back,” said Merita, 80, who was sitting with family and friends outside her ruined home about an hour after the accident Friday. Merita went to the car to help Collins climb out of the passenger side. By the time Collins was out, the police arrived.

“They were Johnny on the spot,” said Merita.

According to Pittsfield Patrol Officer Jeff Vanadestine, Collins was pulling a U-turn in front of the Pennywise Gift Shop on Somerset Avenue at about 11 a.m. when she lost control of her car, narrowly missed other motorists and parked vehicles, jumped the curb and crashed broadside into Park View Apartments. Her 2007 Subaru Forester landed totally inside the Sanborn residence, mere inches from Joseph Sanborn, who was seated on a couch at the time. Merita Sanborn was in a chair about 10 feet away, on the other side of the room.

“He came within three or four inches of being hit by the vehicle,” Vanadestine said of Joseph Sanborn, who was showered with debris and broken glass but was not hurt.

“All of a sudden there was white powder everywhere,” said Joseph. “I felt my lamp just brush right by my arm. The first thing I did to check and see if I was bleeding.”

Neither Joseph nor Merita, nor Collins, suffered so much as a scratch.

Joseph said his first impulse was to get help. He said he ran out the other door of the apartment and to the nearby Pittsfield Police Department. Vanadestine said the accident was also reported by other witnesses.

In addition to taking out a wall, window and door, the impact destroyed many of the Sanborns’ possessions, including a prized China collection. The damage appeared to be confined to the Sanborns’ apartment, though it was unclear Friday whether the newly renovated building had any structural damage. The car came to rest against a support column inside the apartment, but barely damaged it. Despite the damage, Joseph and Merita were mostly relieved that no one was hurt.

“Oh, my God, thank you for saving my son,” said Merita, looking toward the sky.

“I guess my house is a drive-through, now,” said Joseph Sanborn.

The Sanborns said they had made arrangements to stay with family who live in the area. Vanadestine said they declined assistance from the town. The Pittsfield Fire Department and a Sebasticook Valley Hospital ambulance responded to the scene. A crew from Central Maine Power Co. shut down power to the apartment because of an electrical box that came to rest on the Subaru’s roof. The Subaru, which was hauled to a nearby towing company, was totaled, though the vehicle’s air bags did not deploy.

No charges are expected in the accident, said Vanadestine.

Friday’s accident marked the third time in 13 months that a car has rammed a home in Pittsfield. A 123-year-old Victorian home on North Main Street sustained severe damage in May 2010 when a motorist lost control in the middle of the night and destroyed a porch and most of the living room. The car’s driver was treated for a cut to the forehead but no one else was injured.

A couple of months later, another car hit the next-door neighbor’s home, but didn’t cause as much damage, said Vanadestine.

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