BANGOR, Maine — Members of the downtown business community paused Wednesday to remember two workers at a popular local bar and restaurant who died Tuesday night in a two-vehicle crash on Route 1A in Dedham.
Paddy Murphy’s employees Phillip Carter, 32, a bouncer, and Roxanne Papken, 25, a barkeep, were killed when Richard Olson, 85, of Des Moines, Iowa, crossed the centerline in his SUV about 5:45 p.m. and slammed into Carter’s pickup truck. The head-on crash killed all three.
Paddy Murphy’s management announced early Wednesday that the business was closed for the day so employees, family and friends could gather and mourn their loss. Other downtown establishments followed suit and closed for the day, including Nocturnem Draft Haus, The Fiddlehead Restaurant, Ipanema Bar and Grill, 11 Central restaurant and the Big Easy Lounge.
People placed flowers around the entrance to Paddy Murphy’s and on the bar stool where Carter used to sit just outside the door. Others wrote messages of love on the windows or on notes left mixed with the flowers.
“Phill was here from when we opened in 2007,” John Dobbs, owner of Paddy Murphy’s, said Wednesday. “Roxanne had been here just about as long. They were just absolutely wonderful and amazing people.”
Papken was engaged to be married in a couple of weeks to a former employee, Dobbs said, breaking into tears.
Papken and Carter both lived in Bangor.
“We’ve just always been such a tight group — when they weren’t here working they were patrons and friends,” Dobbs said. “Phill was such a mountain of a man, but was the nicest guy in the world. I’m going to miss [Roxanne’s] laugh. She was one of those people who is irreplaceable.”
Carter is survived by his daughter, Isabelle.
“There were no words to describe the love Phill had for his loved ones,” his girlfriend Kate Small said. “Everyone who knew him is completely devastated.”
Co-workers knew something wasn’t right when Carter didn’t show up for work Tuesday, Dobbs said. Bangor police confirmed their fears Tuesday night, he said. They learned later that Papken was with Carter and also was killed.
Employees of the downtown restaurants and bars that closed, bar regulars and others could be seen going in and out of Paddy’s on Wednesday, many stopping to hug each other.
“Go home and hug your loved ones and tell them you love them,” Zach Robbins, a Nocturnem employee, said.
Olson lived in Iowa but he and his wife spent each summer in Ellsworth, state police Lt. Rod Charette said Wednesday. Olson was driving toward Ellsworth about 5:45 p.m. Tuesday when the fatal collision occurred.
“Troopers said Olson’s Chevrolet Tahoe crossed the centerline and struck Carter’s GMC pickup head-on,” Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said in a Wednesday morning news release.
The side of the road on which Carter was driving, heading toward Bangor, has two lanes. Olson crossed the centerline and both lanes to hit Carter’s truck.
“The person who got hit did their best to get into the breakdown lane,” Dedham Fire Chief Craig Shane said, referring to Carter.
Carter apparently saw Olson coming and swerved to the side of the roadway, actually pulling onto the shoulder, trying to avoid the oncoming SUV, said Charette, who went to the crash scene.
The collision happened about a mile from the Lucerne Inn toward Ellsworth. Route 1A was closed to traffic for five hours as the state police accident reconstruction team collected evidence.
Debris from the crash reached from the road to the treeline.
Investigators were checking on whether Olson had a medical condition, if alcohol or speed were factors or if there was a mechanical problem with his vehicle, but a day after the crash there was no explanation for why he veered into the other lane, Charette said.
Route 1A in Dedham, the main road connecting Bangor, Bar Harbor and the Down East region, has seen its share of bad accidents.
Dallas Whatley, 39, of Taunton, Massachusetts, was killed on Dec. 20, 2011, when his car crossed the centerline of Route 1A near the Dedham town office and hit a pickup.
A family of three from Jonesport died near the spot of Tuesday’s crash in 2010. Carlos A. Tapia, 34, his wife, Rachelle Tapia, 23, and Rachelle Tapia’s 4-year-old daughter, Mackenzie Gray, were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, which occurred on Sept. 14, 2010, when the car they were riding in collided head-on with a pickup truck driven by an Orono man. A torrential downpour and worn tires were cited as two factors that contributed to the deadly crash.
The Department of Transportation made improvements to the road in 2005 that reduced a bottleneck effect.
“It’s not a high-crash location,” Ted Talbot, department spokesman, said Wednesday. “It all comes down to driver behavior. Obviously, there was a distraction of some kind, either medical or otherwise.”
Talbot provided a report showing 92 crashes between 2010 and 2013 on Route 1A in Dedham, with four deaths, eight crashes involving incapacitating injuries, six with possible injuries, and eight non-incapacitating injuries. The other 68 crashes involved property damage.
The Department of Transportation road improvements did help, but “it seems all it did was create a racetrack,” according to the Dedham fire chief.
“It’s definitely a dangerous stretch of road,” Shane said. “There is a lot of driver inattention. A lot of it has to do with speed. Where else do you have a rumble strip in the center of the road?”
He warned drivers to obey the speed limit, which is 55 mph near the crash site, pay attention to their surroundings and be alert. He said during the winter the road conditions change significantly between Bangor and Ellsworth so drivers also should take weather conditions into consideration when driving.
Tina Gubler, who owns the nearby Lucerne-in-Maine Golf Club with her husband, David, said the roadway that divides the course is dangerous because drivers go too fast.
“People fly by here,” she said. “They think it’s a race. It’s a bad spot. We actually put a tunnel in under the road because we realized what a detriment it was to cross the road as a pedestrian or in a golf cart.”
As of Wednesday, 72 people have died on Maine roads, according to the Bureau of Highway Safety, compared with 76 on the same date in 2013. A total of 145 people died in all of 2013.
A scholarship fund is in the works for Carter’s daughter, said Robbins, a member of the entertainment group Her Majesty’s Cabaret.
“The proceeds from Saturday’s [cabaret] show at the Brick Church are going into the fund,” he said.
The local cabaret group is hosting the “Never Annual One Time Only Rock and Comedy Show” from 7:30 p.m. to midnight Saturday at the Union Street Brick Church in Bangor.