Roque Bluffs selectmen won’t talk about road near drowning, but changes made

By Tim Cox, BDN Staff
Posted Aug. 01, 2013, at 8:08 p.m.

ROQUE BLUFFS, Maine — Members of the Board of Selectmen continued Thursday night to dodge questions about Schoppee Point Road after a fatal accident that left two women dead.

The issue of the road, which descends directly to a boat ramp, and any safety improvements that might be needed in light of last week’s accident was not on the board’s agenda for its regular meeting. None of the board members raised the issue under new business, and no residents attended the meeting to speak about or raise questions about the accident.

However, some improvements have been made at the site. A small sign reading “Danger Road Ends” has been placed near an existing highway sign; the original yellow sign, which is leaning away from the road, warns, “Pavement Ends.” Also, the words “Road Ends 300’” have been spray-painted on the road. Vegetation has been cut back near the signs and a survey stake is in place.

Selectwoman Lisa Hanscom said that members of the board could not discuss the accident or the road, which state highway officials have identified as a town road.

When the trio of selectmen was asked by a reporter after the meeting what they were going to do about the road, Hanscom replied, “It’s under review,” and declined further comment.

Town officials are discussing the matter with “other agencies” and have been advised not to talk to the news media, she said.

“It’s being reviewed by all the different agencies involved,” said Hanscom, who declined to identify the agencies.

Asked if they had been contacted by any constituents about the accident or road, Hanscom said she had talked to several residents who expressed sorrow.

“Because we are all saddened,” added Selectwoman Valarie Preston.

Selectman Owen Moody was silent.

The women, disoriented while driving on a rainy, foggy night on July 23, were killed when the minivan in which they were traveling went to the end of Schoppee Point Road, down the sharply descending boat ramp, and plunged into the water of Great Cove.

The bodies of Amy Stiner, 37, of Machias, who was pregnant, 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 Stiner likely drove the minivan down the ramp and into the water before she 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.

Hanscom and Preston ducked questions last week about the fatal accident and whether there were adequate signs on the road leading to the boat ramp.

“We’re extremely stunned by the whole accident and all of this,” Hanscom said last week, “but this is just not something we can discuss with the media right now.”

Jennifer Mattison, who lives with her husband, Michael, in the last home before the boat landing, described a similar incident and suggested the area needs improved safety measures.

The couple moved into the home in June 2012. Mattison said that about a month earlier, she and her husband were traveling along Schoppee Point Road about dusk and came to the point where the road begins to descend to the boat landing. She yelled to her husband to stop, she recounted last week, and their vehicle came to a halt before descending onto the boat ramp.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/08/01/news/down-east/roque-bluffs-selectmen-wont-talk-about-road-near-drowning-but-changes-made/ printed on July 25, 2014