EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — A town ambulance heavily damaged when it rolled over in unusually severe ice conditions in early December will be back on the road next week after costing the town $40,471 to repair, officials said Friday.
Autotronics Inc. of Fort Kent is putting a new chassis on the ambulance, Fire Chief Les Brown said. Damage to the ambulance on Dec. 2 was not as extensive as originally feared, he said.
“It had just damage on a side and it broke a couple of lights off the side,” Brown said Friday.
According to minutes from the Dec. 30 Board of Selectmen’s meeting, insurance covered $38,700 of the repairs totalling $79,171. That reduced the amount the town paid to $40,471. The insurance settlement reflected the ambulance being a 2008 model that had depreciated with age. Brown referred comment on those details to town Administrative Assistant Shirley Tapley, who was not at work on Friday.
The board voted 5-0 on Dec. 30 to accept Brown’s recommendation and approve the expenditure, which he described as the least expensive option available, according to the minutes. The payout includes a $1,000 discount for paying for the chassis from the town’s ambulance equipment replacement/repair reserve account, with the insurance check of $38,700 going back into the ambulance account, the minutes state.
The East Millinocket and Lincoln Fire Department ambulance was southbound on Interstate 95 taking a patient to a Bangor hospital on Dec. 2 when it slid off the west side of the road near mile marker 214. It rolled once before coming to a stop on its wheels at about 9:45 a.m., state police have said.
Driver Louis Perreault, an emergency medical technician, of East Millinocket didn’t believe he was hurt but went to Eastern Maine Medical Center of Bangor as a precaution. Paramedic Harvey Frederick of Cary suffered some back pain, state police said.
The patient, Barbara Carter, 72, of East Millinocket, said she suffered a knee injury and heavy bruising from the right side of the top of her head to the left side of her lower lip when the gurney she was strapped to broke free. She was being taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center of Bangor for heart surgery that was delayed by the accident, she said.
The East Millinocket and Lincoln fire departments’ ambulance service, which covers 14 northern Penobscot County towns including Lincoln, Lee, East Millinocket and Medway, was launched in July. It fills a niche created when Penobscot Valley Hospital of Lincoln dropped its ambulance service.
The accident was among dozens reported during that morning’s rush and after more than 50 reported the night before along I-95. Light snowfall, slush and temperatures hovering at the freezing mark made icy conditions dangerously unpredictable, officials said.
A two-mile section of I-95 in Newport was closed for about two hours and a Biddeford man reportedly died as a result of a crash on I-95 in Township 2, Range 9 on Dec 1.
A pickup truck towing a horse trailer and a horse slid into a guardrail near mile marker 219 on I-95’s southbound side about 15 minutes before the ambulance rollover. The man, woman and horse involved were not injured, state police have said.
Carter questioned whether Perreault was driving too fast for conditions, but state police and Brown both attributed the accident to exceptionally poor and unpredictable road and weather conditions.
“They were driving cautiously,” Brown said Friday. “The road conditions were the problem. Louis Perreault is probably the safest driver we have. It’s the first accident he’s ever been involved in.”
The ambulance is among seven the department uses. Four are stationed in East Millinocket; three in Lincoln. The department employs 70 full- and part-time firefighter-emergency medical technicians and paramedics, Brown said.
Lincoln and East Millinocket officials embraced beginning the ambulance service in July as a means of generating revenue that both towns could use. Selectmen and Lincoln Town Council members said they await reports from their town governments on whether the effort is making money for the towns.