A Virginia man was charged with manslaughter after he allegedly drove his pickup truck into a local woman and crashed into a Bar Harbor waterfront restaurant on Tuesday.
Besides manslaughter, driver Justin A. Shell, 36, of Harrisonburg, Virginia, was charged with aggravated driving to endanger a pedestrian, police said.
Connie Birkenmeier, 76, of Bar Harbor, was pronounced dead at the scene after being hit by the truck as she stood in the parking lot of The Chart Room Restaurant on Bar Harbor Road, police said.
“The truck came flying through the parking lot. I didn’t even see when she got hit. I don’t think she even saw it coming,” said restaurant owner Jeff Needham, who was in the parking lot talking with his lobster deliveryman when the crash occurred at about 11:45 a.m.
“I was just in disbelief. She was laying on the ground face down and [then] he crashed into the building,” Needham said.
The pickup truck hit three more parked vehicles before slamming into the restaurant, which had just opened for lunch, Needham said.
Shell was treated for minor injuries at MDI Hospital before being held without bail at Hancock County Jail. He is due to appear at Hancock County Superior Court in Ellsworth on Wednesday, a jail spokesman said.
The restaurant reopened about five hours after the accident, Needham said, adding that it was fortunate no one else was hurt.
“There were people around,” Needham said. “He could have hit a lot more than one.”
A neighbor described Birkenmeier as a widow and retired worker at Jackson Laboratory of Bar Harbor who worked there with her husband for many years. The couple lived on High Street in Bar Harbor and had a son, said Ellen J. Robinson, a neighbor.
“I liked her because she was, I felt, a good woman and a smart woman. I thought that she had tried to live her life, after her husband died, in a good way,” Robinson said.
Connie Birkenmeier was a very kind, intelligent woman and regular attendee of the potluck supper High Street residents held every fall until about two years ago, Robinson said.
“If she was walking by, we might chat, and if I saw her in the store it was always pleasant,” Robinson said.