HAMPDEN, Maine — Police on Monday released the identities of the two men killed in a wrong-way head-on collision Sunday night on Interstate 95 near the Hampden-Newburgh town line.
Richard Holden, 55, of Carmel, who recently lived in Baltimore, Md., was driving an SUV north in the southbound lanes of I-95 when he collided with a pickup truck driven by James Curtis, 39, of Knox, Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety said in a prepared statement.
“Both drivers were killed instantly,” he said.
Holden was driving with a license suspended in both Maine and Maryland, McCausland said. Police are investigating if drugs or alcohol played a role in the collision.
“As required by law, blood alcohol tests will be completed, as troopers continue to attempt to determine why Holden turned his SUV around in the southbound lane and then traveled about a mile in the wrong direction before colliding with a pickup truck,” McCausland said.
Holden has a criminal history dating back at least 16 years, according to Bangor Daily News and court records.
He was indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury in February 2012 for aggravated criminal mischief, criminal mischief and criminal trespass. He was convicted in June 2012 of criminal mischief and ordered to pay a $750 fine and restitution in the amount of $1,000, according to BDN archives.
Holden also was indicted by the grand jury in 2000 for two counts of operating a motor vehicle after revocation of his driver’s license and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, the BDN archives state. The resolution of the 2000 case was not available.
The Carmel man was listed as a transient in May 2012, according to a background check done by the BDN through the Maine State Bureau of Identification.
He was charged with assault on Dec. 23, 1998, by Maine State Police and he entered a guilty plea the next month and was sentenced to 30 days in Penobscot County Jail in Bangor, the background check shows.
It could not immediately be determined why Holden’s license had been suspended in Maryland.
One eyewitness to Holden’s bizarre driving Sunday night said he feels lucky to be alive.
Harold Brown, 75, was driving home to Richmond from Bangor on Interstate 95 Sunday evening when he encountered the SUV driven by Holden.
Brown and his friend Monica Ditzler saw the SUV driving erratically in front of them minutes before they came across it stopped in the middle of the highway.
“I was driving south going about 70 mph and the SUV was in front of us,” Brown said during a telephone interview Monday. “He was in the passing lane when he put his brakes on around mile marker 175. I thought maybe he was reacting to something in the road.”
“We at first thought he had seen something we didn’t — a moose or a hole in the road,” Ditzler said. “He moved over, so we moved over. He moved over again and was going back and forth. Finally I said, ‘He’s either drunk or having a medical emergency or something. He’s driving erratically.’
“That is when, I swear, he bounced off the guardrail on the left side,” she said.
Dust kicked up as the SUV pulled away from the barrier, Brown said.
“I backed off because I was watching for an accident getting ready to happen,” he said.
But at mile marker 172, the two friends came up on the SUV again.
“It was stopped crossways in the road. He just sat there. I pulled into the breakdown lane. A pickup in front of me did the same thing. I called 911. The police asked me to get his plate,” Brown recalled, noting he did not get a good look at the man driving the SUV because of the low light at dusk and his concentration on getting the license plate numbers, which he relayed to police.
Suddenly, the SUV backed up, cut its wheels and turned facing the wrong direction.
“He just took off going the wrong way at a high rate of speed,” Brown said. “I stuck my arm out the window to flag him and let him know, but he went by me quick.”
The man driving the truck stopped beside them also tried in vain to flag the driver down.
“There was nothing anybody could do,” Brown said. “When he turned around, he was hammering it. He was out of sight in no time.”
He was going so fast that when he passed Brown and Ditzler, the driver’s face was a blur, she said.
“Troopers attempted to stop the wayward SUV which was traveling north in the southbound lanes,” McCausland said. “The vehicle failed to stop as a trooper attempted to block its way. Other troopers were in position to set up spike mats when the SUV slammed into Curtis’ pickup truck.”
Brown and his friend sat stunned in their vehicle after the SUV took off going the wrong way. They waited until the Carmel man’s vehicle was out of sight. They knew police were involved. After a few minutes they resumed their journey home.
“We just hoped he didn’t kill someone,” Brown said.
It didn’t turn out as Brown and Ditzler hoped. Within minutes, the SUV going the wrong way slammed into Curtis’ pickup.
The crash occurred on I-95’s southbound lanes about 7 p.m., state police said. It forced state police to close the highway in that area and reroute traffic at the Coldbrook Road exit, state police and witnesses said.
Upon arriving home in Richmond, Brown went on his computer and saw the Bangor Daily News report that a collision had occurred. Soon, it was confirmed that two men were dead.
“I just thought it’s too bad he had to kill someone besides himself. It was his responsibility he acted that way. There was nothing I could have done,” said Brown, a retired dairy farmer who had been selling a poison ivy remedy at the BDN Maine Garden Show in Bangor over the weekend.
Brown said he has been wondering if he’d been driving his three-quarter-ton pickup truck with the plow on it if he might have tried to pull in front of the SUV when it began to turn around.
“I don’t know if I would have reacted fast enough,” Brown said.
BDN writers Nok-Noi Ricker, Michael J. Dowd and Nick Sambides Jr. contributed to this report.