Woman survives crash on Route 1 after going airborne

Posted July 11, 2011, at 4:06 p.m.

SEARSPORT, Maine — A Brooklin woman survived a U.S. Route 1 crash Monday afternoon that totaled her 2011 Toyota RAV4 after it hit a ditch, went airborne and flew over a large, 5-foot-tall wooden sign.

Police said Clare Sullivan, 71, was traveling east at about 1:15 p.m. when she likely fell asleep at the wheel near Red Kettle Antiques. Her vehicle crossed into the wrong lane of traffic, veered off the road, went into the ditch and then took to the air.

Witnesses said it appeared that when the accident happened she was traveling at about the speed limit, which is 50 miles per hour on that part of the coastal thoroughfare, according to Officer Eric Bonney of the Searsport Police Department.

Searsport Fire and Ambulance crew members had to cut Sullivan out of the car, but Officer Eric Bonney of the Searsport Police Department said she was conscious and talking the whole time. She did complain of having “general pain,” he said.

“It never ceases to amaze me, what people walk away from,” Bonney said.

Sullivan was transported to Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast by ambulance.

Dennis Middleswart, owner of the antique store, said Sullivan crashed in the exact same spot where a 2004 collision claimed the lives of a father and son from Ellsworth. The father in that accident also may have fallen asleep while driving, according to BDN archives.

On Monday, as he looked at the totaled RAV4 and the dirt from its airborne wheels that dusted both his large yard sale sign and a nearby street sign, Middleswart said Sullivan was very lucky.

“Somebody really had the angels on their side,” he said.

Deep gouges in the ditch in front of his store and a ripped-up embankment marked the spot where Sullivan left the highway.

She had been wearing her seat belt and the vehicle’s airbags did deploy, Bonney said.

The Waldo County Sheriff’s Office also responded to the crash, and traffic was halted briefly in both directions while rescue workers cleared the scene.