PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A Maine State Police trooper on patrol in the Presque Isle area Monday evening was flown to a Bangor hospital after being injured while attempting to turn around in the road and being struck by another car.
Trooper Shawn Whalen had been heading south when he attempted a U-turn about 4:20 p.m. on Route 1 on the north end of town, according to Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. The trooper did not have his lights or sirens activated, as he was not pursuing a vehicle, McCausland said.
Eric Rosten, 49, of Presque Isle, who also had been driving south in his 2006 Dodge Stratus, couldn’t avoid striking the driver’s side of Whalen’s cruiser, state police Sgt. Brian Harris said in a press release.
McCausland said Tuesday afternoon that police believe at this point that Rosten was in Whalen’s blind spot when the trooper turned.
The spokesman added, “There is nothing illegal about a U-turn. You have to do it safely, of course.”
Whalen suffered a hip injury and was taken by Crown Ambulance to The Aroostook Medical Center and later flown by Fresh Air to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor for further treatment, Harris reported. Early Tuesday afternoon, Whalen was in fair condition at Eastern Maine Medical Center.
Rosten suffered a minor injury to his hand and was not taken to the hospital.
Bailey, a bomb-sniffing police dog, also was in the cruiser but not injured, according to the release.
Acting Maine State Police Lt. John Cote said Tuesday evening that Bailey’s dog kennel behind the front seat made it a bit harder for Whalen to see the vehicle in the blind spot, which contributed to the crash.
“We were very fortunate that the accident was not worse than it was,” said Cote.
Deputy Chief Laurie Kelly of the Presque Isle Police Department said Tuesday that the crash happened on a section of Route 1 known as the Caribou Road near the Caribou city line.
Route 1 was shut down for about two hours before the scene was cleared.
Both Whalen’s cruiser, a 2011 Ford Crown Victoria, and Rosten’s vehicle were significantly damaged and considered total losses, according to the state police statement.
Both operators were wearing their seat belts and Rosten’s air bags also deployed.
According to Maine Revised Statutes governing U-turns in the state, “An operator may not turn a vehicle to proceed in the opposite direction on a curve or on the approach to or near the crest of a grade, where the vehicle can not be seen by the operator of another vehicle approaching in either direction within 500 feet.”
Harris is continuing his investigation into the crash. He was assisted at the scene by members of the Presque Isle Police Department, Crown Ambulance and Presque Isle Fire Department.
In April 1996, Trooper James “Drew” Griffith of Thomaston died after starting a U-turn to pursue another vehicle and being struck by a truck on U.S. Route 1 in Thomaston.
Cote said that Griffith also had a dog kennel in his vehicle at the time of the accident.
In August 2006, Knox County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin Cook of Warren was seriously injured while making a U-turn on U.S. Route 1. According to BDN archives, the deputy suffered internal and head injuries when his cruiser was hit broadside by a trailerless tractor truck. Cook was taken by LifeFlight helicopter to Eastern Maine Medical Center and recovered from his injuries.