A Greenbush man who was injured early Wednesday in a collision that killed another driver on Route 9 in Crawford is recovering at Maine Medical Center in Portland.
Kenneth C. Stairs, 59, suffered second- and third-degree burns in the crash and was flown by Lifeflight helicopter to the Portland hospital on Wednesday from Calais Community Hospital, where he had been taken by ambulance from the crash scene, according to his daughter, Brynn McLeod of Island Falls.
Stairs was listed Thursday in fair condition at the Portland hospital, a spokesperson said.
McLeod said the cab of her father’s logging truck caught fire when it collided with a passenger vehicle driven by Bruce Pierce, 63, of Calais, at around 5:20 a.m. Wednesday as the two vehicles were driving in opposite directions on Route 9 on a remote stretch of the road in Washington County. Pierce was driving west, while Stairs was headed east to the pulp and tissue mill in Baileyville.
Pierce died at the scene, according to Maine State Police. The highway, which connects the Bangor area to Calais and is heavily used by trucks crossing the Canadian border, was shut down after the crash for more than eight hours as traffic was diverted through Machias.
Stairs, who served as a firefighter in Island Falls for 20 years, managed to crawl through a window to get out of the burning truck, McLeod said.
“As soon as [Pierce’s vehicle] hit him, the truck went up in flames,” she said. “He crawled through the fire to get out.”
The collision caused Stairs’ truck to roll over, scattering logs across the highway. He knew from his training as a firefighter that he had to stay low to avoid the smoke inside the cab before he crawled out, McLeod said. Without that training, he could have passed out and also died, she said.
Stairs suffered burns to his legs and will have to use a wheelchair while his legs heal, she said. He is due to have surgery on Friday to finish cleaning his wounds, she said.
McLeod said her father is “devastated” that Pierce died in the collision, and said he may never drive a commercial truck again. She also said he lost his favorite hat — a gray Cabela’s baseball cap — in the fire.
“We are trying to find him a duplicate one,” she said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story had inaccurate information about how Stairs was taken to the Calais hospital.