HAMPDEN, Maine — Three people driving on Interstate 95 called 911 on April 6 when they first noticed the silver SUV that later would be involved in a wrong-way head-on collision that killed two men, and one Maine State Police sergeant came face to face with the erratic driver.
“I’m at [mile marker] 174,” state police Sgt. Sean Hashey told the dispatcher who was alerting law enforcement in the region about an erratic SUV that had stopped on the highway at about mile marker 172, performed a U-turn and then traveled north against traffic. Hashey started heading south with his cruiser’s lights activated.
He met the erratic vehicle coming at him heading north in the southbound lane, according to Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department Public Safety. The SUV was driven by Richard Holden, 55, of Carmel, who had turned around on the highway about 2 miles beyond the exit to get to his house, located on Route 69.
“He almost struck me when he went by me,” Hashey told dispatchers, according to a transcript of the call. “I tried to block him.”
The frightening details of the incident are contained in a transcript of emergency calls obtained by the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday from the state’s emergency communications department within the Department of Public Safety through Maine’s Freedom of Access Law.
After Holden drove by Hashey, the sergeant crossed over to the northbound lane in an attempt to catch up and then get ahead of Holden. Hashey wanted to set up a roadblock with a spike mat just before the southbound Hampden rest area, where Trooper Adam Coover had stopped traffic heading south, according to an account on the Maine State Police website.
“Do you still have a visual?” the dispatcher asked. “I don’t. I gotta go. I gotta get the spikes out here,” Hashey said as he drove in the northbound lane hoping to spot Holden across the median. Hashey was about a half mile behind Holden when Holden collided head-on with a southbound pickup truck driven by James Curtis, 39, of Knox.
“I got a head-on [crash],” Hashey said when he came upon the scene. “Can you advise — is the suspect vehicle involved?” a dispatcher asked. “Yeah, 10-4, hit a pickup truck head-on …. looks like it’s gonna be a bad one,” Hashey said.
Both Holden and Curtis died at the scene. The deadly crash occurred about 7 p.m. and forced state police to close the highway in that area and reroute traffic at the Coldbrook Road exit.
Police detectives are investigating if Holden had consumed alcohol or drugs, McCausland said. Holden’s license to drive was suspended in both Maine and Maryland, McCausland said, and he has a criminal record that dates back 16 years, according to BDN archives.
Holden hadn’t had a license to drive in Maryland since 2000 because of his driving record in Maine, Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration spokesman Buehl Young said earlier this week by phone.
“The investigation is still ongoing and we’re still waiting for the blood-alcohol tests to come back,” McCausland said. “That will be the first piece of evidence that might help explain what happened.”
The 911 callers
Three people, two women and a man, who were eyewitnesses to Holden’s bizarre driving called 911, according to the emergency call transcript. Names have been redacted. The first was a woman born in October 1983 who was riding in a pickup truck with a man.
The woman said Holden was “erratic, swerving through lanes” and she described the situation by saying “it’s kind a scary.”
She gave Holden’s license plate number to police and said he kept on applying his brakes. “It’s just in front of me, we don’t dare to pass,” the 30-year-old woman said.
Harold Brown, 75, who shared his story with the Bangor Daily News, was heading home to Richmond from Bangor with his friend Monica Ditzler when they saw Holden’s SUV being driven erratically in front of them and minutes later came across it stopped in the middle of the highway. Brown was the second person to call 911.
Brown relayed a similar story of Holden weaving all over the road and coming upon Holden’s SUV stopped in the roadway.
At mile marker 172, Holden, who had his blinker on indicating he was going to turn right, pulled into the breakdown lane and then cut his wheel and was facing the median, blocking traffic, the eyewitnesses said.
“They gotta get someone here stat,” the man in the first caller’s vehicle said. “Yeah, you need to get someone here fast,” the female caller said. “A trooper is on the way, just stay on the line with me so you can give me [information],” the dispatcher said.
“They’re going in reverse. Oh my word, they’re going in reverse. This person is — oh my — [name], don’t get out of the car please,” the female caller said. “Stop! Stop!,” the man said, apparently to Holden.
Brown said the truck was stopped in front of him and he saw the male driver wave his arms in an attempt to get Holden to stop. “Now they’re going in the opposite direction,” the woman caller said.
“Jesus Christ, he’s going northbound,” Brown told the dispatcher. The third 911 caller, a female who was just north of Route 69, called in to report Holden’s wrong-way vehicle. Then she reported seeing flashing lights.
“OK, we’re all set. We’re all set, thank you,” the dispatcher said.