ROQUE BLUFFS, Maine — Members of the local Board of Selectmen ducked questions Friday about a fatal accident earlier this week that claimed the lives of a pregnant Machias woman and another woman from Pennsylvania.
The women, disoriented while driving on a rainy, foggy night, were killed when the minivan in which they were traveling went to the end of Schoppee Point Road, which empties into a boat ramp. Their vehicle went down the sharply descending boat ramp and plunged into the water of Great Cove.
There is no sign on the road advising motorists of the boat ramp. There is one yellow highway sign near the end of the road, leaning into the woods and partly obscured by vegetation, that reads “Pavement Ends.” It is located about 60 paces before the road and boat ramp descend to the water’s edge.
The bodies of Amy Stiner, 37, and Melissa Moyer, 38, a friend from Sunbury, Pa., were pulled from the 2001 Dodge Caravan — which Stiner had been driving — after the vehicle was recovered from the water. The vehicle was equipped with power windows and locks.
Stiner made a desperate 911 call while the women were apparently trapped inside, water entering the vehicle; then the call cut out.
Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith suggested the minivan likely plummeted down the ramp and into the water before Stiner realized what was occurring and had time to apply the brakes.
The women became lost while hiking earlier in nearby Roque Bluffs State Park, but eventually were reunited with their vehicle with the aid of a nearby resident and the Maine Warden Service. However, Stiner apparently was confused and headed the wrong way when they left the park.
Two members of the town’s Board of Selectmen skirted questions Friday about the tragedy and the road signage.
“I have no comment,” said Selectwoman Valarie Preston when reached by phone. When asked what she had no comment about, Preston replied, “I know what you want. Thank you anyway,” and hung up.
Another selectwoman, Lisa Hanscom, considered a reporter’s questions but was equally evasive.
Asked if she thought there was adequate signage near the boat ramp in light of the accident, Hanscom said, “I can’t discuss that right now. That’s something I can’t discuss at the moment.
“It doesn’t just involve the town,” Hanscom added.
“We’re extremely stunned by the whole accident and all of this,” said Hanscom, “but this is just not something we can discuss with the media right now.”
Asked if anyone had threatened town officials with a lawsuit, Hanscom replied, “Nobody has said anything about a lawsuit.”
Asked what the Board of Selectmen was going to do in response to the accident, Hanscom said, “We’ve had discussions, and we … I can’t tell you everything that’s been discussed.” The discussions were held “just recently,” she said.
“I can tell you there has never been an official or unofficial complaint about that boat landing to the town of Roque Bluffs,” Hanscom said. “Ever.”
The town has been saddened by the accident, said Hanscom.
The third member of the Board of Selectmen, Owen Moody, could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, a woman who lives adjacent to the boat ramp described a similar incident that involved her and her husband and suggested the area needs improved safety measures.
Jennifer Mattison lives with her husband, Michael, in the last home before the boat landing. The couple moved into the home in June 2012, and she said an incident similar to what occurred earlier this week happened to them about a month earlier. They were traveling along Schoppee Point Road about dusk and came to the point where the road begins to descend into the boat landing.
“I yelled to my husband, ‘Stop!’” recounted Mattison.
Their vehicle came to a halt before descending onto the boat ramp. Her husband later trimmed the vegetation away from the sign in order to make it more visible, she said, because “we almost went off the ramp.”
There is virtually no differentiation between the road and the boat ramp, Mattison observed. At night, she added, the hazard is exacerbated.
“I could absolutely not believe the road went into the water and we almost wiped out,” said Mattison.
The couple is originally from Florida and “got their first taste of rural living” in West Virginia, she said.
“You don’t ask questions about planning and zoning,” said Mattison. “I’ve been through this before. The locals expect you to figure it out.”
She was somewhat reluctant to talk about the issue.
“The last thing you want to do is make waves,” said Mattison.
Nevertheless, more safety measures are needed, she suggested.
“People drive way too fast down this road,” said Mattison. “I’d like to see some speed bumps here … for a lot of reasons.”
The area is residential and children occasionally play in the road, she noted.
“Anything that would promote safety now and in the future … . Who wants to see a reoccurrence of this tragedy? … I can’t imagine anyone having a different opinion than that.”
Mattison said she had discussed the hazard with a neighbor a week ago.
“It’s tragic,” she said.
Mattison has been thinking about the accident since it happened Tuesday night and said she has been feeling depressed.
“It’s hard to look at this beautiful scenery and realize there’s such a level of danger behind it” she said.