Questions linger around fatal Presque Isle crash

Posted Feb. 19, 2013, at 10:41 a.m.
Last modified Feb. 19, 2013, at 7:41 p.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Police and city officials still were working Tuesday to determine the chain of events surrounding a fatal accident that occurred Monday morning on Conant Road.

Martin Puckett, deputy city manager of Presque Isle, held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to talk about the incident, which involved a city-owned plow truck. The four-vehicle accident was caused in part by wind and snow creating whiteout conditions, police said.

Puckett said investigators believe the incident actually involved two separate accidents that combined to cause the death of Roman Yoder, 22, of Fort Fairfield and seriously injure David Hayes, 63, also of Fort Fairfield. Hayes was listed in critical condition at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor on Tuesday evening.

The first crash took place about 10:40 a.m. when Philip Bird, 60, of Fort Fairfield was heading westbound on Conant Road in his 2008 Chevrolet pickup. The truck collided head-on with a city-owned plow truck driven by Wayne Howlett, 40, of Mapleton, according to Presque Isle police Chief Matthew Irwin.

Puckett said Tuesday that the crash was not serious and that neither man was injured. He said that Bird got out of his vehicle and got into the plow truck to exchange information with the plow driver. Puckett said late Tuesday afternoon that he was not sure at that point if the plow truck was positioned somewhere on the road or had pulled over onto the shoulder.

At that point Hayes, who was driving a Ford Escape with Yoder as a passenger, came up behind the plow truck. Puckett said it wasn’t clear yet whether the SUV stopped or was still moving slowly when the second accident happened.

Puckett said that the men in the plow truck did not feel the Ford Escape strike their vehicle.

Police Chief Irwin reported in a press release early Tuesday that the driver of a loaded logging truck, Leigh Gordon, 56, of Ashland did not see the SUV and struck it from behind, pushing it into the plow truck, trapping Yoder and Hayes in their vehicle.

Bird and Gordon were not injured, but Yoder was pronounced dead at the scene while Hayes suffered life-threatening injuries and was taken by Aroostook Critical Care Transport to EMMC.

The crash remains under investigation, but whiteout conditions were a contributing factor, the police chief said.

BDN reporter Ryan McLaughlin contributed to this report.

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