Investigators on Tuesday identified the man killed after he drove his pickup truck into the back of a parked logging truck on an unpaved section of Golden Road as excavator operator Martin A. Qualey, 33, of Sherman.
Qualey, the pickup’s sole occupant, was driving to a logging site, and behind another pickup from his cousin’s business, Qualey Excavation of Benedicta, when he crashed into the truck parked at the edge of the road near mile marker 39 on Monday.
His friend William Cassio of East Millinocket described Qualey as a brawny, hard-working extrovert who was close with his parents, doted on his daughter and girlfriend, and her daughter as well. Qualey was an avid outdoorsman whom many liked for his candor and great sense of humor, Cassio said.
“He would walk in the room and everybody would light up. He was one of the good people who cared about everything he did,” Cassio, 25, said. “He wanted to make a difference.”
“Everybody is still in shock. He was still so young.”
Qualey was blinded by “whiteout conditions” created by dry weather and the pickup he followed, Piscataquis County Chief Deputy Robert Young said.
“This time of year, whiteout is very normal. It is literally blinding,” Young said Tuesday.
Qualey, who was not wearing a seatbelt, died at the scene. The speed limit on that section of Golden Road is 45 mph, said Young, whose investigators are working to determine how fast Qualey was driving.
Dana Doran, the executive director of Professional Logging Contractors of Maine said summer whiteout is a common problem for truckers — dust so thick that it’s “probably worse than snow,” Doran said Tuesday.
“Snow doesn’t fill every single void of air, but dust does,” Doran added. “It comes extremely quickly. Let’s say that you are driving in one direction and another vehicle is coming from the other. As soon as that vehicle passes you, that’s when it is created.”
Private and mostly unpaved, Golden Road is about 100 miles and runs from Millinocket to Canada. It was built decades ago by the now-defunct Great Northern Paper Co. Public use of the road is managed through gates overseen by North Maine Woods Inc., a non-profit that represents more than 35 landowners who own property along the road, said Al Cowperthwaite, the organization’s executive director.
Golden Road accident statistics are not kept by the Maine Department of Transportation, its spokesman said, nor by North Maine. Cowperthwaite could recall one Golden Road fatal accident in the last two years, despite visits from an estimated 100,000 recreationists annually, he said.
Accidents are rare because drivers are cautious, Doran said.
“You need to stop and to wait. That is the reality,” Doran said. “It is a pass at your own risk situation.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Martin A. Qualey's name.