Family members of wrong-way driver call double-fatal ‘a tragedy’ with no warning

Posted April 08, 2014, at 3:37 p.m.
Last modified April 08, 2014, at 6:09 p.m.
Richard Holden
Courtesy photo
Richard Holden
James Curtis
Courtesy photo
James Curtis

HAMPDEN, Maine — Relatives of the Carmel man involved in the fatal wrong-way collision on Interstate 95 Sunday night say they have no answers about why their loved one turned around on the highway and drove against traffic.

“Our hearts and thoughts go out to the family of the man killed,” Ron Plummer of Eddington said about the final actions of his brother, Richard “Rich” Holden, 55, of Carmel. “It was a tragedy.”

Holden was driving an SUV south on I-95 toward his home around 7 p.m. Sunday, when he suddenly stopped in the roadway and after a brief standstill, turned his vehicle around and started driving north in the southbound lanes, speeding as he took off, witnesses said.

He collided head-on with a pickup truck driven by James Curtis , 39, of Knox within minutes, and both men died instantly, investigators say.

“For some reason, he decided to turn and drive the opposite way,” another brother, William “Billy” Holden of Brewer, said Tuesday. “We really don’t know what caused that to happen.”

“This took us by quite a surprise,” Plummer said. “It’s a thing we could not have stopped.”

Rich Holden’s mother, Jane Plummer of Eddington, said the family is waiting to hear from police detectives about the findings before commenting further on what may have caused her son to turn around on I-95.

“He is missed,” she said.

Family members declined to answer questions about Richard Holden’s past, any issues he may have been dealing with or where he worked.

Richard Holden, who recently lived in Baltimore, Md., was driving without a license because it had been suspended in Maine and Maryland, “likely for convictions in Maryland,” Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety said Monday in a prepared statement. He did not have details about why Holden’s license to drive was suspended in Maryland, and messages seeking comment from the Baltimore Police Department public affairs office on Tuesday were not immediately returned.

Troopers continue to look for clues as to why Holden turned his SUV around in the southbound lane, and are investigating whether drugs or alcohol played a role in the deadly collision, he said.

“At this point, it’s not clear why he did what he did,” McCausland said Tuesday afternoon. “The results of the blood and alcohol testing would at least give us some answers. I don’t expect those test results to be available until later this week.”

Details about Holden’s criminal history, which dates back at least 16 years according to Bangor Daily News and court records, upset his family who said the details shaded the true facts of his life.

“It made him out [to be a criminal],” his brother, Ron Plummer, said.

Rich Holden was indicted by a Penobscot County grand jury in February 2012 for aggravated criminal mischief, criminal mischief and criminal trespass after a drunken incident in December 2011, when he broke a window to get into a Carmel home he thought was his own, the district attorney’s office said Tuesday.

He entered a guilty plea for misdemeanor criminal mischief in June 2012, and the other charges were dropped. Holden was ordered to pay a $750 fine and restitution in the amount of $1,000, according to BDN archives.

Records of why Holden’s license was suspended in Maryland were not immediately available.

The last time Billy Holden saw his brother was at the January funeral for their father, Charles J. Plummer of Eddington.

Rich Holden’s wife Katharine died of cancer in August 2010.

Kathy “loved to hang out at home and spend time with her husband, Rich, who was her best friend and buddy,” her obituary states. “They truly enjoyed each other’s company, watching a lot of movies, football and baseball games together or going to camp.”

“We are all heartbroken over the whole thing,” said Bangor resident Paul Cook, brother of the late Katharine Holden, about the incident involving his brother-in-law.

Holden is survived by his wife’s two children and a son who lives out of state, his brother said.

“He never was one to come and visit or call, but every time I did see him, he seemed happy,” Billy Holden said of his late brother.

“It was a tragedy,” Ron Plummer said. “There were mistakes made, but there is nothing anybody could do.”

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