Victims of Christmas Day crash in Palermo mourned

Posted Dec. 26, 2011, at 7:31 p.m.
Last modified Dec. 26, 2011, at 8:35 p.m.

PALERMO, Maine — Residents here and in Bucksport on Monday remembered four men who died on Christmas Day in Maine’s deadliest car crash of the year.

Tyler Manduca, 18, and his 21-year-old brother Kyle Manduca, both of Bucksport, as well as 64-year-old Dennis Sturges and his father, Roy Lucier, 83, both of Palermo, were all killed in the crash. The two vehicles were headed to separate Christmas events with other family members when they collided.

Details were slow to emerge about the father and son from Palermo. Several business owners along Route 3, where the accident happened, said Monday local residents were in disbelief about the tragedy. Some said they knew Sturges and Lucier by name, but knew little about them. One man at a convenience store said he thought Sturges had moved to Palermo in the past couple of decades.

Blake Brown of Palermo said he knows members of the family and that they are drowning in grief. He said both men were retired and that Sturges was a veteran of the armed services.

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“Everyone around here feels bad for both families,” said Brown.

In Bucksport, co-workers, bosses and a teacher remembered the Manduca brothers as hard workers who were easy to get along with.

Both brothers, who were graduates of Bucksport High School, had worked at the Bucksport McDonald’s for several years. Tyler worked there for more than three years before he decided to leave in April for a job down the street at Hannaford Bros. in the produce department.

Kyle worked at McDonald’s through high school but left to attend college in Massachusetts, according to Shane Mitchell, assistant store manager. Kyle continued working at McDonald’s when he returned to Bucksport, and was taking classes to become a shift manager. He mostly worked closing shifts, Mitchell said.

“When [Kyle] got here, he was just one of those guys you instantly liked,” Mitchell said.

“They were the nicest boys,” said Jenn Wingate, a training manager at McDonald’s. She fought back tears as she talked about how Tyler and Kyle Manduca always managed to make work fun for the other employees.

Kyle’s last day of work at McDonald’s was Christmas Eve, Wingate said.

“I just can’t even say good enough things about those two boys,” she said.

Mitchell said several McDonald’s employees were allowed to leave work early Monday. The news of the brothers’ deaths made it too difficult for them to get through their shift, he said.

The store manager offered to give every employee at the Bucksport McDonald’s the day off and bring in employees from other McDonald’s in the area, but most chose to work.

In the Bucksport Hannaford parking lot, 16-year-old Cody Gray, a Bucksport High School junior, took a break from gathering shopping carts to talk about Tyler Manduca. Gray said most of Tyler’s co-workers called him by his last name because they liked the way it sounded.

“He was really devoted to working,” Gray said, adding that the two were on the Bucksport High School track team together. Gray said Tyler enjoyed Airsoft, a sport in which participants shoot nonmetallic pellets from replica firearms, and paintball.

Gloria Deredin, a teacher at Bucksport Middle School who had taught Tyler when he was a boy, said she ran into him from time to time at Hannaford.

“He always made a point to come up and greet me,” she said. “In a small town, it just hits home. Losing a kid has such an impact.”

The brothers are survived by their mother and a sister.

Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland had said on Sunday evening that Tyler Manduca’s sport utility vehicle lost control at about 1:30 p.m. Sunday on Route 3 in Palermo. It skidded sideways into the path of a car driven by Sturges, which hit the SUV broadside.

“All four were killed instantly,” said McCausland, who attributed the crash to Tyler Manduca traveling too fast for road conditions. Route 3 was covered in a light snowfall at the time of the accident, McCausland said.

The brothers’ father, former Maine Department of Public Safety dispatcher Russell Manduca, died in January 2008 after a heart attack, according to McCausland.

“It’s a terrible thing that these two families will have this accident to remember on every future Christmas,” McCausland said Monday morning.

He said he doesn’t expect any updates about the accident.

BDN writer Christopher Cousins contributed to this report.


An earlier version of this story contained an error. According to Jenn Wingate, a training manager at the Bucksport McDonald’s, Kyle Manduca’s last day of work was Christmas Eve, not the day before Christmas Eve.

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