WASHINGTON, Maine — Two people were killed Friday afternoon when a flatbed truck carrying lumber flipped on Route 17, striking three oncoming cars, causing one vehicle to burst into flames.
Paul Fowles, 74, of Owls Head was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a news release from Knox County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Tim Carroll. Fowles was driving east in a 2009 Chevrolet Colorado and was the first vehicle in line struck by a westbound 1998 Freightliner loaded with lumber that was driven by Randall Weddle, 53, of Greeneville, Tennessee.
Fowles’ vehicle went off the road to the right after being struck on the left side and ended up in an embankment.
The identity of the second victim has not yet been released, pending confirmation of the name by the state medical examiner because of the extent of burns suffered by the person. That person was driving a 1998 Chrysler van struck by the trailer and the load of lumber being hauled by the truck. The van was pushed into the field and burst into flames.
A 2014 Nissan, driven by Tracy Cook, 51, of Union, also was struck by the trailer and went off the road to the right. Cook’s vehicle rolled over once and struck the following vehicle, a 2015 Kia, driven by Tracy Morgan, 33, of Washington before coming to rest on its wheels in the field off the road. Morgan was able to avoid being struck by the trailer after she took evasive action. Morgan’s Kia was struck by the Nissan as it rolled over, and the Kia also came to final rest in the field.
Morgan was uninjured in the crash. Cook was taken by ambulance to a local hospital.
Weddle was taken by a LifeFlight helicopter to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. A passenger in the Freightliner, Lowell Babb, 32, of Virginia, was taken to a local hospital. Their injuries were not considered life-threatening, according to police.
The crash occurred shortly before 5 p.m. on Route 17 near the intersection with the Fitch Road.
Carroll said the crash occurred when the trailer portion of the truck began to slide into the opposing lane while rounding a right hand corner just west of the Fitch Road intersection. The Freightliner began to roll over on to the left side as it continued to go around the corner. As it rolled, three of the four vehicles heading in the opposite direction were unable to avoid being hit.
Crews remained on-scene until 2:30 a.m., cleaning up debris and getting the vehicles to a secure location. Fairpoint and Central Maine Power were to return Saturday morning to repair the lines and the utility pole destroyed in the crash. Power initially was shut off to an extensive area until crews arrived shortly after the crash.
The Knox County Sheriff’s Office, Waldo County Sheriff’s Office and the Maine State Police Reconstruction, Mapping, and Commercial Truck Enforcement units will continue to investigate the crash in the days to come to try to figure out what exactly happened.
Fire departments and emergency medical crews responded quickly from Washington, Jefferson, Somerville and Union to extinguish the fire and provide care to the victims.