MEDWAY, Maine — Chad Stanley was trying to escape darkening skies and a thunderous downpour just before 8 p.m. Friday when he and a friend came upon an overturned vehicle on Rockabema Road.
His friend Stanley said, “That looks like a four-wheeler. Is anybody with it?”
His heart sinking, Stanley replied that there was. He could see legs jutting out from under the all-terrain vehicle. They immediately called 911, jumped out of Stanley’s pickup truck and tried to brace the neck of the bleeding rider, he said.
“There was not a lot we really could do,” Stanley said Saturday. “He was in bad shape. You see a lot of things in this business [police work], and you know when somebody’s in rough shape.”
The rider, 50-year-old Gene Smith of Medway, was pronounced dead at Millinocket Regional Hospital of head and neck injuries several hours later. Maine Warden Service investigators are seeking public help as they attempt to reconstruct the fatal ATV accident that had its traces obliterated by thunderstorms, warden service Sgt. Alan Gillis said.
“There were no four-wheeler tracks on the road. You couldn’t even tell what direction he was coming from,” said the 27-year-old Stanley, an East Millinocket officer and former military policeman who also works as a firefighter with the Air National Guard and as a security guard at a federal building in Bangor.
There was nothing near Smith that he could have hit, Stanley said. Nor was there any way to tell precisely when the accident occurred. These facts, and Smith apparently having been riding his ATV alone, leave accident investigator Warden Jim Davis in an unenviable position, Gillis said.
“Normally we can tell a lot from a scene but we can’t do much with this one. We do the best we can. These scenes can be hard to deal with, especially when they [accidents] are not witnessed,” Gillis said.
Anyone who might have seen the accident or Smith sometime Saturday afternoon is asked to call game wardens at their Ashland office at 435-3231, Gillis said.
Smith was riding on a straightaway, was not wearing a helmet and might not have had any other safety gear with him, said Stanley and Gillis.
Gillis complimented Stanley and the police and fire departments for helping Davis and Smith as much as they could at the scene. The police and firefighters tried to help him make several determinations about the accident and what led to it, Gillis said.
“I can vouch that it was an awful thunderstorm,” said Stanley, who stopped fishing with his friend at Nollesemic Lake in Hopkins Academy Grant Township, Long A Township and Township 3 Range 9 about 7:20 p.m. and found Smith about 30 minutes later.
Davis will try to reconstruct the route Smith took and the accident scene to determine what caused the accident, Gillis said.