Bangor firefighter who drove truck in July 4th parade fatal collision returns to work

Posted July 15, 2013, at 2:41 p.m.
Last modified July 15, 2013, at 4:56 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The off-duty Bangor firefighter who was behind the wheel of an antique firetruck involved in a fatal collision during the Fourth of July parade returned to work Monday, according to Bangor Fire Department Assistant Chief Tony Riitano.

“He’s back on full duty,” Riitano said of firefighter Patrick Heathcote, 29, of Levant. “He’s out on a call right now.”

State Police investigators have been focusing on the 1930 Hose 5 Museum firetruck Heathcote was driving as the investigation into the fatal accident continues, Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards said Monday.

Wallace Fenlason, 63, of Holden was killed instantly during Bangor’s holiday parade, when the vintage 1941 John Deere tractor he was driving was struck from behind on Water Street by the antique firetruck, police have said. Heathcote was placed on paid leave the day after the accident.

The parade from Brewer to Bangor was rerouted onto Water Street because of a police standoff on Park Street that started earlier in the day in downtown Bangor. A Detroit, Mich., man who shot up his apartment and out his window into the street, was later arrested.

Fenlason, a longtime member of the Maine Antique Tractor Club, had just turned onto Water Street atop his 72-year-old John Deere tractor when the collision with the antique firetruck, that carried Heathcote and a couple of children, occurred.

Edwards initially reported that firetruck passengers told police that a mechanical failure caused the truck to go out of control in front of a large crowd of parade-watchers, but on Monday stressed that he is waiting until the investigation is complete before commenting again.

“I don’t want to talk about the brakes, because I just don’t know [what the investigation will say],” the sergeant said. “The state police have to autopsy the truck. They may get to that this week or they may already be done.”

A Maine State Police reconstruction team is partnering with Bangor detectives and Officer Jim Dearing, who is leading the investigation, to determine what happened during the deadly incident.

Messages left with Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, and with Heathcote were not immediately returned.

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