SINCLAIR, Maine — Despite the rescue efforts of a local restaurant owner, his wife and son Friday afternoon, the driver of a vehicle that left Route 162 and ended up in Long Lake was dead when his body was recovered from about 15 feet of water.
The body of Gilberto Rentas, 27, of Madawaska was recovered by a diver from the Maine State Police.
Rentas was driving a 2008 Nissan Xterra southbound on Route 162 shortly after noon when it left the road and ended up in Long Lake, according to Sgt. Forrest Dudley, the accident investigator from the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department.
Dudley said the vehicle failed to negotiate a curve, went through the parking lot of the Long Lake Sporting Club, struck a boat launch, a dock and a boat and ended up in the lake.
The sheriff’s office received a 911 call at 12:28 p.m. Friday. Dudley said Rentas died at the scene despite the efforts of three volunteers who attempted to extricate him from the vehicle.
Dudley said the cause of death would be determined by a medical examiner.
The sergeant said he could not comment on reports at the scene that Rentas had been hospitalized earlier Friday.
He said Rentas was from Connecticut but had been living in Madawaska for about five months.
Ken Martin, owner of the Long Lake Sporting Club, was on the front porch of the lakeside restaurant playing with his dog when he heard a loud boom off to his right. Looking up, he saw a vehicle speeding through his parking lot heading for the lake, where boats were moored off several docks and boat launches.
“It looked like this vehicle was going about 80 miles an hour,” he said just three hours after the incident. Martin said the sport utility vehicle hit a boat launch, a dock and a boat and then flew some 15 feet into the lake.
“I ran to a small fishing boat I had there and went out to try to help. I opened up the back gate of the SUV while it was still floating and I could not see anyone. I had yelled for my son to call 911.”
Martin said the back of the vehicle filled with water in seconds after he opened its back gate and it quickly sank about 15 feet to the bottom. His wife, Debbie, dove into the water to try to help, but the vehicle was down too far for her to be able to open the door.
Martin’s son Neal, who joined his father in the boat after calling 911, said he could not see anyone in the vehicle.
Ken Martin said the vehicle traveled about 400 feet through his parking lot after it left Route 162.
“It went straight for the water,” he said. “There was no screeching of brakes, there were no tire marks and he was wide open through the parking lot.”
Martin said he was told Rentas’ vehicle was a rental.
The vehicle, the boat launch, the dock and the boat involved in the incident all were destroyed.
The boat launch and boat, a 2001 Crownline, were owned by brothers Chris and Steve Richards of Caribou. Steve Richards said at the scene Friday afternoon that the 20-foot inboard cost $25,000. The launch was estimated to cost between $5,000 and $8,000 and the demolished dock was estimated to cost $3,000.
Assisting Dudley at the scene Friday was another deputy sheriff and members of the Maine State Police, U.S. Border Patrol, Madawaska Ambulance Service and Ambulance Service Inc. of St. Agatha.