CARMEL, Maine — A Carmel volunteer firefighter was taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center by ambulance after the firetruck she was a passenger in drifted off Route 69 in Carmel, coming to rest just feet from a cluster of roadside trees.
The crash happened in the area of 409 Hampden Road in Carmel, part of Route 69, at about 5:45 p.m. First responders shut down both lanes of traffic for about an hour and 15 minutes before the scene was cleared.
Carmel Fire Chief Mike Azevedo said shortly after the ambulance left, that the firefighter was “banged up” but did not appear to suffer life-threatening injuries. Two other firefighters, including the driver, were treated at the scene. Azevedo declined to provide the names of any of the firefighters involved.
The injured firefighter was hurt when she hit the pump handle, which Azevedo said likely means either her seat belt malfunctioned or she wasn’t buckled into her seat in the rear.
Azevedo said the truck was headed westbound toward a trailer park to investigate reports of smoke behind one of the mobile homes. As the truck approached the crest of a hill, its right wheels got into the soft dirt at the side of the road, pulling the truck toward the ditch.
As the truck was pulled deeper into the ditch, there was a high likelihood it could have tipped over, causing much more serious injuries to the firefighters inside, according to Azevedo. The fact that the truck, a 1992 rescue pumper valued at $300,000, was filled with water could have increased the risk of a severe crash, he said.
“[The driver] was just trying to hold it upright,” Azevedo said. “This could have been a lot worse.”
The truck skidded to a stop just a few feet away from a crop of trees.
The chief said the firefighters told investigators that a vehicle heading in the opposite direction was driving over the center line and forced the truck into the ditch. However, witnesses who saw the crash happen told officials at the scene that they didn’t see another vehicle heading in the opposite direction when the firetruck went off the road.
As part of the investigation, which will be lead by Sgt. Jamie Kennedy of the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department, officials will try to determine the speed of the truck, circumstances behind the crash, and attempt to identify any vehicle that may have contributed to the accident.
“Obviously, our goal is to figure out what happened, find ways to prevent it and retrain our firefighters to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Azevedo said.
The truck was towed out of the ditch around 7 p.m.
Another firetruck was dispatched to check the report of smoke at the trailer park, which turned out to be nothing, according to Azevedo.
The truck appeared to have damage to its front-end undercarriage, as both wheels were set back against the wheel wells. Azevedo said the truck would be taken in for repairs Monday.
Carmel’s fire department consists of 25 volunteer firefighters, according to Azevedo.
Fire and rescue crews from Carmel and Hampden came to the scene and assisted in tending the wounded and closing the road.