BIDDEFORD, Maine — “It was just surreal,” Kennebunk Police Lt. Daniel Jones said of witnessing last week’s accident in Biddeford, when a truck driven by David Labonte swerved across oncoming traffic on Elm Street and struck a family of three riding bikes.
Police say the 56-year-old Labonte, of Kennebunkport, had a blood alcohol content of nearly twice the legal limit for driving on Aug. 2 when he struck Jamerico Elliott, his wife, Melodie Brennan, and their 15-month old son, who was in a bike seat and riding with his dad. Elliott died Wednesday.
Jones, who was off-duty and going to dinner with his wife, was travelling behind Labonte and watched the accident unfold.
“There were no signs that he tried to do anything,” said Jones, who assisted at the scene until emergency personnel arrived. “I’ve seen multiple accidents before, but this was different in that it was just so slow moving because of the drift. It was just surreal.”
Labonte made his first court appearance Monday morning in York County Superior Court and stands charged with manslaughter and aggravated criminal operating under the influence.
After appearing before a judge, Labonte was taken back to York County Jail, where he’s been held since being arrested Friday. The judge set his bail at $100,000 cash and said, should he make bail, Labonte is not to drive or have the keys to any motor vehicle on him, use alcohol or illegal drugs or go into any establishment that’s primary purpose involves the sale of alcohol. He must also submit to random searches and testing.
Jones said he was driving behind Labonte’s blue 2005 Ford F-150 when they approached the stop light at 111, traveled through a green light, and then watched the truck start to drift over the double yellow line, continue into oncoming traffic and hit Elliott. Jones estimated that Labonte’s truck was travelling at approximately 35 miles per hour, but said the vehicle showed no signs of breaking or change in direction.
After striking the bicyclists, Labonte’s truck continued, crashing into a parked Chevrolet truck, pushing the vehicle into a building at 360 Elm St.
Jones said he did not know there was a child on the back of Elliot’s bike until he reached the scene. He said Elliot was alive, but motionless on the ground and that both he and his son were assisted by a doctor who happened to be near the scene.
Brennan has been treated and released while the 15-month-old boy is still in serious condition in a Portland hospital.
According to a police affidavit, Elliot had severe injuries to his head and his child was bleeding significantly. The helmet the boy was wearing was found in several pieces on the roadway.
The affidavit stated that Labonte was found in the driver’s seat of his truck, covered in dust from an airbag deploying, and complaining about his heart.
While responding officers did not observe any signs of impairment, paramedics who took him to the nearby Southern Maine Medical Center noted that they did.
Police said they located a small cooler in the rear passenger seat containing what appeared to be parts of Labonte’s lunch and an unopened can of Bud Light.
The affidavit states that Labonte’s license showed he has at least two prior OUI convictions.
Labonte initially refused a blood test, but it was completed after officers obtained a search warrant.
Labonte previously said he had an asthma-induced coughing fit and passed out.
His next court appearance is Nov. 22 in York County Superior Court.