BELFAST, Maine — A driver apparently searching for a dropped cell phone Tuesday afternoon on Route 3 caused an accident that led to power outages for an estimated 2,000 people in five Waldo County towns.
Gerald N. Bubar, 64, of Belfast was traveling east on Route 3 at about 2:30 p.m. when he swerved into a utility pole, according to Officer Howard Dakin of the Belfast Police Department.
“He dropped the phone and went to pick it up,” said Dakin, who was directing traffic at the rainy accident scene.
Although Bubar’s 2007 GMC pickup truck was demolished, police said, he walked away from the crumpled vehicle.
“If he had been 6 inches to a foot closer to the passenger side when he hit the pole, it probably wouldn’t have been so nice,” said Officer Michael Rolerson.
Police estimated damage to the truck at $10,000 to $12,000.
The effects of the accident spread throughout the county after the transformer on the snapped utility pole started to pop and sizzle.
Merle and Barbara Grass were watching TV at their home on Route 3 when they heard a big crash.
“The transformer was burning, and then there was an explosion,” Barbara Grass said.
The power soon went off in their home, as it did in other homes and businesses in Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Montville and Searsmont. A traffic light in Belfast near the Pizza Hut also went dark, but drivers avoided further accidents, Rolerson said.
When Belfast Dead River lost power at 2:45 p.m., all its gas pumps went down, too.
“It was an hour and a half of business lost,” said assistant manager Jeff Thorndike.
While they couldn’t sell gas, he said, employees were able to continue selling merchandise from the store despite losing the use of their electric cash registers.
The outage also affected business at nearby EBS Building Supply, which lost the use of some computers even with the help of a backup generator.
“Thank God it was slow because it was raining,” said Chip Clark of EBS.
The Belfast Fire Department assisted with traffic direction, and several trucks from Central Maine Power arrived to replace the pole, hang new wire and replace the transformer.
Police said that CMP workers had restored power by about 4 p.m.
Belfast police said information about the accident investigation and whether charges would be filed would be available Wednesday.