MILLINOCKET, Maine — A driver’s education instructor cited for leaving the scene of an accident last week might also face the loss of his instructor’s permit, officials said Wednesday.
The Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles is investigating whether Harry Epp, owner of Katahdin Driving Academy, should face a BMV penalty atop the summons Millinocket police issued him on Sept. 30, said Kristen Muszynski, spokeswoman for Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, who oversees the bureau.
“We have to sit down and talk about it and see where we go,” Muszynski said Wednesday.
Epp, 76, of Lincoln was issued a summons for leaving the scene of a property damage accident, police said.
Epp was instructing a student driver in his school’s 2006 Dodge sedan when the student turned in to the McDonald’s restaurant parking lot off Route 11 and ran into the building at about 2:55 p.m., according to the accident report filed by Officer Shawn J. Smith. Several concrete blocks were damaged.
The 15-year-old student told Smith that she accidentally pressed the accelerator instead of the brake. She and Epp inspected the vehicle, went inside for hot chocolate and then left. She said that Epp told her that “it was all right and not to say anything about the accident,” Smith’s report states.
The accident was reported to police by an unidentified caller. Police in East Millinocket subsequently located Epp who allegedly told them he was in the car when the accident happened and that he would return to Millinocket to meet with Smith.
After returning to the Millinocket McDonald’s, Epp allegedly told the officer that when he inspected the scene right after the accident he did not see damage to the building, only a bent front license plate. Smith then showed Epp a video picture from the restaurant’s surveillance video showing the car over the curb about a foot from the building.
“I don’t remember hitting the building,” Epp said, according to Smith’s report.
Smith showed Epp the damage to the building and issued him the summons, according to the report.
Police Chief Steve Kenyon said he alerted the bureau on Tuesday out of common-sense concern. He wasn’t sure whether additional state action was necessary.
“I don’t want to take away from all the good he has done all these years,” Kenyon said, “but if I were a parent, I would be concerned.”
Attempts to contact Epp were unsuccessful on Wednesday.
Several people who said their children were enrolled in Epp’s driving school contacted the bureau for assurances that their children could graduate the school on-time if Epp faced additional bureau action, Muszynski said.
Kenyon, Muszynski and Maine Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association President Anthony Vine said they could not recall a driver’s ed instructor ever being cited for leaving the scene of an accident.
The state has on occasion suspended schools for failing to follow state regulations, Dunlap said. Penalties generally range from ordered remedial education to suspension of licenses.
According to state law, the secretary of state “may suspend, revoke or refuse to issue or renew a driver education school or instructor license for noncompliance with statutory and regulatory requirements.”
The secretary may also “investigate complaints as deemed appropriate,” according to the statute. Anyone “refused a license or whose license is suspended or revoked may request a hearing.”
Epp has had a clean driving and instructional record since he became a licensed driver’s education instructor in 1999. According to state records, his Maine driving history goes back to 1982, Muszynski said.
Epp has been a member of the association in good standing for many years, Vine said.
“I have dealt with Mr. Epp on many occasions, and he has been very professional. He takes the profession very seriously,” Vine said.
Epp is due in Millinocket District Court on Nov. 4, police said.