MONSON, Maine — An alert Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department deputy and skid marks he saw might have saved an elderly town man whose vehicle had flipped over into a stream, police said Friday.
William Larson Jr., 76, of Monson refused medical treatment at the scene from Mayo Hospital Ambulance Service attendants after firefighters and sheriff’s Deputy Allen Emerson pulled him from a stream off North Guilford Road on Wednesday.
Larson said he was driving on North Guilford when his 1989 Ford Bronco blew a tire.
“That is what threw me into a skid,” Larson said Friday. “I started sliding all over the place and finally wound up in the brook. I didn’t get hurt or anything.”
Emerson was driving south on North Guilford Road between 10 and 10:30 a.m. when he saw the skid marks left by Larson’s Bronco just yards north of the road’s intersection with Steward and Bjork roads. The skids veered sharply off North Guilford into Hammond Brook.
Emerson instantly thought something was wrong, he said.
“It looked like somebody fishtailed,” Emerson said. “The road was icy on the sides but it was wet and a little bit slushy and sandy in the middle. I said to myself, ‘Boy, those look too fresh for something not to be there.’”
Emerson did a U-turn almost immediately. When he got out of his police cruiser, he came upon the Bronco sitting on its driver’s side door in the middle of a brook that looked to be about 2 to 3 feet deep. The water was running pretty swiftly thanks to recent rains and snows, he said.
Inside the vehicle, apparently standing on the driver’s side door and trying to force open the passenger’s side door above him was a wet and somewhat shaken Larson, Emerson said. Water was flowing slowly over the driver’s side door.
The Bronco “was rolled over upside down in the river,” Emerson said.
Emerson climbed atop the Bronco and used a piece of ledge he found nearby to prop open the passenger’s side door. But he and Larson couldn’t get Larson out of the vehicle.
“As soon as he was getting some air [from the open door] he was much happier. He was a little nervous about getting trapped in there,” Emerson said. “He stood up and I said, ‘Stay here until I get more help from the Fire Department.’ He was a good-sized man but old enough to not have enough strength to get himself out of there.”
Emerson radioed dispatchers for help. Several Monson Volunteer Fire Department firefighters lifted Larson from the vehicle after about a half-hour’s effort, Emerson said.
Emerson said he was glad he came by shortly after the accident occurred. The stream is fairly close to the road, but foliage and the sharp downward slope to the water made it difficult to see Larson or his vehicle.
Only the freshness of the skids stood out. Several other vehicles had already passed Larson when Emerson saw the skid marks, he said.
“A lot of people that knew me went by me but didn’t know it was me in the brook,” said Larson, a retired boiler operator and woodworker at Pride Manufacturing.
Larson doubted the accident would have been fatal to him if Emerson hadn’t come along. He still had his cellphone with him and might have had reception in that area, he said. He hadn’t had a chance yet to use it when Emerson came along.
“I think he did pretty good. He was there within five minutes,” Larson said. “As a rule he is not on it [North Guilford Road] that often.”