Police: Speed a factor in Searsport crash that left one man with broken neck

Posted Aug. 19, 2013, at 6:43 p.m.

SEARSPORT, Maine — Police say speed was a factor this weekend in a single-vehicle accident on Mount Ephraim Road that left the driver with a broken neck and other injuries.

Officer Eric Marcel of the Searsport Police Department had been running stationary radar very early Saturday morning in the vicinity of Nickerson Road when he reportedly logged a vehicle that was going too fast — 72 mph in a 45 mph zone. Marcel began to follow the car using his flashing blue lights and sirens, Chief Dick LaHaye said Monday.

“For a moment, there was a chase,” LaHaye said.

The driver Marcel was trying to stop — 31-year-old James Hartford of Searsport — sped down Mount Ephraim Road, crossed Old County Road and then seemed to lose control of the vehicle about a mile from the center of town, LaHaye said. Marcel saw Hartford’s 2001 Pontiac Grand Am cross the centerline of the road and then travel for “quite a distance” along the shoulder. Hartford almost hit a traffic sign, then nearly struck a telephone pole, LaHaye said. He did hit a ledge and appeared to go into a tailspin, the vehicle rolling onto its roof and still veering down the road.

“The vehicle clipped off a telephone pole four feet off the ground,” LaHaye said. “Then the vehicle came to rest on the passenger side.”

Marcel arrived at the crashed vehicle shortly after the car had stopped. The wires from the sheared telephone pole were still live and Marcel’s cruiser has black singe marks where the wires slapped against it, the chief said. When the officer got out of his cruiser and went to Hartford’s vehicle, he found the driver was unconscious and the Grand Am was teetering back and forth.

Marcel called for help, and a couple of ambulance attendants who lived nearby and had heard the accident quickly arrived at the scene. They got Hartford out of the totaled Grand Am and into an ambulance, which brought him to Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast. From there, he was taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor by LifeFlight of Maine helicopter, LaHaye said.

“He had a broken neck, a broken leg, and, we believe, a head injury in the back of the head,” the chief said.

In addition to speed, LaHaye said that there is a possibility alcohol was a factor in the crash, which continues to be under investigation.

“Most likely there will be pending charges,” LaHaye said.

Members of the Searsport Ambulance, Searsport Fire Department, Belfast Police Department and Waldo County Sheriff’s Office assisted at the scene.

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