Carmel woman’s death likely not connected to husband’s ATV accident, officials say

Posted Aug. 01, 2012, at 6:30 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 02, 2012, at 3:55 p.m.

CARMEL, Maine — Officials know little about what caused the death of Carmel resident Joyce Girt, but  indications are that she was not involved in the ATV accident that seriously injured her husband.

The body of Joyce Girt, 58, was found Friday evening in her driveway next to her ATV, according to officials and witnesses. Her husband, Robert Girt, 67, was found pinned under his ATV just feet away with serious injuries.

“Indications are that the wife passed away before he arrived. It wasn’t a chain of events,” Cpl. John MacDonald of the Maine Warden Service said Tuesday. “We think they’re likely separate incidents, and they certainly didn’t collide with each other.

“She was found essentially right next to her ATV, so it’s hard for us to determine without a medical report whether she fell off it perhaps or if she had a medical event while standing next to it,” MacDonald said.

A news release issued Saturday by the Maine Warden Service initially said the couple was involved in “a fatal ATV incident.”

The final result of a postmortem exam is pending further information, according to Mark Belserene of the state medical examiner’s office. Robert Girt remained at Maine Medical Center in Portland in satisfactory condition on Wednesday.

On the day she died, Joyce Girt and her husband spent the day with friends and were planning to eat dinner with them at their camp, according to neighbor and family friend Pamella Hand, who works for Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems and was one of the first people on the scene.

The group had a few drinks and Robert Girt and the friends went to the camp to prepare dinner, according to Hand. “Joyce, meanwhile, went home to get her cooler and some stuff to drink.”

The group waited for Joyce Girt for a while but when they wanted to start dinner without her, Robert Girt got on his ATV to go back to the house and check on his wife.

Nobody knows exactly what happened next — Robert Girt has no memory of the accident — but Hand theorizes that when Robert Girt pulled into his driveway and saw his wife lying on the ground, he overaccelerated, hit a spot of loose shale and flipped his ATV.

That is one of the theories the Maine Warden Service is investigating, although “if you were to look at the scene, you could probably draw a couple different conclusions,” MacDonald said.

“He was in close proximity to his wife, and maybe he saw her and lost some of his driving sense.”

There are fewer theories for what caused Joyce Girt’s death. She was overweight and “prone to tripping and falling,” Hand said. “She has weak ankles and her right foot turns inward.”

“She falls down at least once a week or trips and stumbles,” Hand said.

Joyce Girt’s cane was still clamped to her four-wheeler when Hand found her and the cooler she had gone to fetch was still on the porch untouched, Hand said. Her four-wheeler was sitting in her regular parking spot, unscathed and shut off.

Joyce Girt enjoyed football, hunting, fishing, NASCAR and riding her ATV, according to Hand. She moved to Carmel from East Moline, Ill., by way of Brockton, Mass., where she worked as a bus driver. She served as secretary for the Etna Pond Lane Road Association.

Joyce and Robert Girt, who were married 21 years, bought a camp on Deer Run Lane and converted it into an off-the-grid, year-round house.

“They were retired living up there in the woods, and she didn’t need to be on anybody’s clock,” Hand said. “They’re quite happy up there in the peace and quiet.”

CORRECTION:

Because of a reporter error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Pamella Hand as a nurse who works as a spokesperson for Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems. Hand has a nursing degree but is not a registered nurse in Maine, and she works in the telecommunications department, not the communications department.

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