East Millinocket trucker fortunate to be alive after dump truck, train collide, police say

Posted Aug. 29, 2013, at 11:15 a.m.
Last modified Aug. 29, 2013, at 10:01 p.m.

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HAMPDEN, Maine — Rescue personnel from three communities helped free the driver of a dump truck that was partially crushed when it collided with a train on Thursday morning.

Fredrick Lindsay, 63, of East Millinocket was driving east on Route 202 and wasn’t able to stop in time behind a vehicle waiting at a railroad crossing for a Maine, Montreal and Atlantic Railway train to pass, Hampden police Officer Joel Small said at the scene.

Lindsay went around the stopped vehicle to avoid it and his dump truck was struck by the train near Mayo Road.

The crash was reported shortly before 11 a.m.

Given the damage that Small encountered at the scene — Lindsay was entrapped in the crushed front end of his truck — the patrolman said he was surprised that Lindsay was still alive.

“He was conscious the whole time,” the patrolman said. “He was talking from the moment I got there [until] the moment he got into the LifeFlight [helicopter].”

The impact of the crash derailed the MMA train, according to Small, and an undetermined amount of oil spilled onto the road.

Small declined to say the truck’s brakes malfunctioned, citing an open investigation. A state police reconstruction team will reconstruct the crash, the patrolman said.

The dump truck is a 1990 diesel with more than 780,000 miles on the odometer, owned by M&S Trucking of Medway, according to state records.

The bells at the railroad crossing had been ringing, but Small declined to say whether the train’s horn was working. The crossing has red lights but does not feature gates.

It was not immediately clear what the train was hauling.

Lindsay was trapped in the truck for nearly an hour, but shortly after noon, firefighters were able to extricate him and he was airlifted to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor with undisclosed injuries.

“The front end of the dump truck was rolled up into him,” said Hampden fire Lt. Frank Coombs. “We had to cut it up piece by piece to get him out.”

Coombs said Lindsay was talking to rescue workers during the entire extrication process, which took longer than normal because of the truck’s heavy metal construction.

“His legs were toward the door and he was sideways in the truck,” Coombs said. “We had to roll the dash off of him,” in addition to cutting off the steering wheel.

Both Coombs and Small called the rescue a great team effort. Hampden police and rescue, along with rescue personnel from Bangor and Newburgh and a LifeFlight helicopter crew, went to the scene of the crash.

Western Avenue, which is part of Route 202 and Route 9, was closed in both directions while crews cleaned up the scene and reconstructed the crash. The road was expected to reopen to traffic by about midnight, a Hampden public safety employee said Thursday night.

It wasn’t the first truck-train collision at the crossing.

In April 2006, a train tore off the back end of a tractor-trailer carrying demolition debris after the driver of the truck wasn’t able to stop before the tracks. The driver instead accelerated through the flashing signals in an attempt to get out of the path of the train.

Police later charged the driver with failure to obey a railroad signal, a charge that carried a $311 fine.

No one was injured in that collision, but there was damage to the road.

The crash is the latest incident involving Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway. A runaway MMM train derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec last month and exploded, killing 47 people.

BDN reporters Nick McCrea and Dawn Gagnon contributed to this report.