June 24, 2018
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Two Hermon High School students killed in car accident

By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff

CARMEL, Maine — Friends and acquaintances of two teenagers killed in a car crash Monday night reacted with shock and sadness Tuesday to the news of their deaths.

James McPhearson, 16, of Levant and Richard Picken Jr., 14, of Carmel were killed instantly Monday night when the car they were in struck a utility pole on Irish Road, according to Maine State Police spokesman Stephen McCausland. The boys were soon to become stepbrothers.

McCausland said the teens had just left McPhearson’s home and were headed to Picken’s residence to retrieve a printer needed for a school project when the accident happened shortly after 9 p.m.

The deaths of the two teenagers has hit friends and family hard, Hermon High School Principal Brian Walsh said Tuesday afternoon.

“The whole school community and the Greater Hermon community are hurting,” he said. “The students, the staff, the faculty and the administration, needless to say, are extremely saddened by the loss of Jimmy and RJ. Certainly our thoughts and prayers have been with them today and with their families and loved ones.”

“They were both great kids and both of them will be greatly missed,” said Hermon Baptist Church Youth Pastor Matthew Bentley.

Walsh said the school was touched by the support it received from the larger community, from other area schools and counseling professionals who offered their services. So many volunteered that some served as backups.

Guidance staff from Hermon High and Hermon Middle School and the district’s social worker were joined by colleagues from Caravel Middle School in Carmel, local counselors and clergy, who helped students and staff cope with their grief, Walsh said.

Students and many adults also have turned to Facebook as a way to express their condolences and share memories of McPhearson and Picken.

Walsh said that grief counseling services also will be made available on Wednesday, the last day of classes for Hermon High students this week because of a staff inservice day on Thursday and Veterans Day observances on Friday.

State police on Tuesday released the findings of their investigation into what caused the crash.

“Inexperience and speed were factors,” said Trooper Brenda Coolen, who led the investigation.

State police say the vehicle hit a utility pole on Irish Road near the Fuller Road intersection and knocked down power lines. Emergency crews couldn’t get to the vehicle immediately because of the downed lines.

“Neighbors had heard a pop and thought maybe a transformer had blown [because the power went out],” said Coolen. “They came out and started doing a little investigating. They got into a vehicle and drove down to the end of the road … and noticed a pole was dangling from a power line.”

Coolen said the 911 call was received at 9:16 p.m. Monday. Investigators didn’t wrap up the investigation until 2:30 a.m. Tuesday.

McPhearson was driving his green 1998 Saturn at a high rate of speed and lost control of the vehicle, said Coolen. She didn’t know how long McPhearson had had his license.

Walsh said Tuesday the two teens were well-liked at Hermon High School, where McPhearson was a junior and Picken was a freshman.

McPhearson was a member of the high school’s football team, Walsh said.

Often clad in camouflage, Picken was an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed motocross and hunting and who bagged a moose in this year’s hunt.

McPhearson was the son of James C. McPhearson Jr., a corrections officer at Penobscot County Jail who died in May of last year from brain cancer. His mother, Kathy McPhearson, is engaged to Picken’s father, Richard Picken Sr.

Information about funeral arrangements for the two teenagers was not yet available Tuesday night.

BDN writers Ryan McLaughlin and Alex Barber contributed to this report.

Correction: An early version of this story requires correction. The passenger in the car accident was Richard Picken.

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