It has been more than two weeks since two women — one of them pregnant — were killed when their minivan descended the boat ramp at the end of Schoppee Point Road in Roque Bluffs and sunk in the waters of Englishman Bay. Melissa Moyer, 38, of Sunbury, Pa., and her friend Amy Stiner, 37, of Machias, who was pregnant, called 911 from inside the vehicle as it was in the water, but they couldn’t be rescued in time.
The deaths will weigh on their families and friends for the rest of their lives. Local emergency responders, officials and residents will remember the Washington County accident for a long time, too. A well-placed sign, to provide ample notice that the road ends in the ocean, might not have prevented their deaths. But there’s the possibility it could have. Selectmen shouldn’t wait until the next tragedy to erect a permanent warning sign. Already too much time has passed.
The current sign, which leans into the trees, states, “Pavement Ends.” Shortly thereafter, the town-owned road descends quickly to a boat ramp and the waves. Even someone who knows that the road — not just the pavement — ends could get disoriented in the darkness and fog. It has happened before, people told the BDN. In one case, a man said he and his friends were driving in the dark and ended up window-deep in water. In another, a woman said she and her husband were driving at dusk and nearly descended down the boat landing.
For Stiner and Moyer, it’s possible there wasn’t even time to apply the brakes, Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith said. The women had been hiking earlier in Roque Bluffs State Park. When they left, they apparently headed the wrong way. Their 911 phone call cut out as water filled the vehicle.
When there are a number of crashes or near-accidents at an intersection, officials typically try to find a better way to direct the flow of traffic, either through different signs or road configurations. Past near misses and the deaths of Moyer and Stiner beg for a review of Schoppee Point Road’s terminus. Someone thoughtfully put up a small sign that says “Danger Road Ends” after the apparent drownings, but it is temporary. A permanent fix is clearly needed.
Other towns with boat landings should ensure they have proper signage as well. And anyone who drives can put his or her mind at ease by having a way to break out their car window if they ever have to. There are tools made specifically for that purpose.
Finally, Roque Bluffs’ officials can prove to those who elected them they won’t let a similar accident happen again. They can do that by speaking openly about what they plan to do and when. There’s no need to wait.