MEDWAY, Maine – Four teenagers were lucky to survive with only minor injuries from a joy-riding incident that ended with them flipping over a car on Jr. Mack Road and landing roof-first in a stream, police said Thursday.
The teens also were lucky that they couldn’t be arrested or summoned, East Millinocket police Patrolman Kevin Giberson said.
“It’s not because we didn’t want to,” Giberson said Thursday of the lack of arrests. “The law only applies to what happens on a public way. There’s no [motor vehicle] law that applies to what happens on a private way.”
“This easily could have ended with four fatalities,” he added.
The teenagers — an 18-year-old male, 15-year-old boy and girl, and 14-year-old boy — were treated and released from Millinocket Regional Hospital following the accident, which occurred at about 4 p.m. Wednesday.
The 2007 Chevy Cobalt they were driving, which was owned by the father of the 18-year-old, was totaled, Giberson said.
The 15-year-old boy who was driving would have been charged or summoned with operating without a driver’s license and the 18-year-old would have been charged with allowing the illegal operation of a motor vehicle, Giberson said. All would have been cited for failure to wear seat belts.
The 15-year-old boy might have also been charged with driving to endanger, Giberson said.
The incident began when the 15-year-old driver headed down Jr. Mack Road, a private way, when he approached a wooden bridge about a half-mile south of Powersville Road. The driver was going a bit fast for conditions — a dirt road — and began to lose control of the car, Giberson said.
He accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brake and drove the car into one side of the bridge, flipping the vehicle over and landing it into what Giberson said was a stream. Giberson did not recall the name of the stream.
“They were upside down in a stream in about four feet of water,” Giberson said. “The car was entirely underwater. They were lucky enough in that because there was enough water in there to cushion the impact.”
At this point, Giberson said, came the only other piece of good news he could see in the situation.
Though partly ejected from the car and deeply frightened, the 14-year-old kept his head enough to help the others escape the vehicle and fast-moving current, Giberson said.
“The 14-year-old actually pulled all three kids out of the car,” Giberson said. “He kept his head and remained cool and collected. I certainly don’t condone how this ended up, but I commended him at the scene for keeping his head.”
The teens’ parents were both angry at their children and grateful that they escaped unharmed. Giberson, meanwhile, said he could reconcile not being able to make arrests in a situation like this.
“You certainly would like to send a message in situations like this [with arrests] but the laws are what they are,” he said. “As lucky as they were and as scared as they are, a pretty good message was sent.”