Reported in the Sun Journal, October 16, 2010
PARIS -- Two people were injured late Friday morning when a car delivering mail was struck from behind by an 18-wheel tractor-trailer on a rainy, windswept stretch of Route 26 near the West Paris town line.
According to Lt. Michael Dailey of the Paris police, a 1998 Buick Century driven by 31-year-old Katie Brett of Paris was traveling south at 11:30 a.m. and had stopped to let a northbound car pass before she attempted to turn into Doe's Variety. Her car was hit by a Freightliner fuel truck driven by 53-year-old William LeTarte of Dummer, N.H. The truck was lettered with "Bill LeTarte Trucking" of Dummer.
The truck crushed the back half of Brett's car then pushed it across the northbound lane. A 2001 Ford pickup driven by Gloria Hadley, 57, of West Paris then struck the side of the truck as it crossed the road, tearing off one of the tractor-trailer's fuel tanks, Dailey said. The tank had an estimated 60 to 80 gallons of fuel, he said.
"It's amazing the people got out of it the way they did," Dailey said.
The driver of the 18-wheeler was not injured.
Both women were taken to Stephens Memorial Hospital where they were treated and released, he said. Firefighters at the scene said Hadley complained of a hip injury. A woman who ran to the scene of the accident said Brett, a local mail carrier, was conscious but disoriented.
"We were right in the middle of what happened," said Doe's Market owner Doreen Brown, who was busy serving lunchtime customers when the crash occurred.
"It was a humongous bang. We could hear the truck driver's brakes before it happened," she said.
Brown and others inside the convenience store/luncheon business ran outside to help the drivers. Brown said when she looked inside the wrecked car she recognized the woman behind the wheel as a former employee.
"She used to work here. It was awful," Brown said, adding the woman was conscious and talking but confused.
The impact of the crash tore the fuel tank from the underside of the tractor-trailer, releasing a stream of fuel onto the highway. The road was closed to traffic for several hours.
Norway Fire Chief Dennis Yates said firefighters were attempting to divert the fuel that spilled from a nearby storm drain. The accident was across the street from the Little Androscoggin River.
"We're trying to keep the fuel above the water," Yates said of efforts to dig trenches in the pouring rain and lay white booms on the ground to separate the clean water from the fuel.
The Department of Environmental Protection and an accident reconstruction team from the Maine State Police were also at the scene.
Dailey said the accident is still under investigation but it appears that the truck driver may have been distracted.
Based on this report, it appears the tractor trailor truck is at fault for the injuries sustained by both of the other drivers in the accident. Documenting this conclusion by collecting the investigations from the Maine State Police, the Department of Tansportation and the Department of Environmental Protection would be prudent first steps in a claim for the injuries sustained. It would also be wise to get witness statements from those who knew Ms. Brett and interacted with her immediately following the collision. This will preserve their recollection of her altered mental state at the time of the accident. The auto accident specialists at Peter Thompson & Associates have handled thousands of similar claims and recovered millions of dollars in compensation for our clients. We specialize in providing excellent customer service and quick results. For more information, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-917-1784 or read more on our website www.Peter-Thompson-Associates.com on our car accident practice page.