PROSPECT, Maine — A pine tree is being credited with preventing a vehicle with two octogenarian Rockland women from careening down an embankment beside the Penobscot Narrows Bridge scenic turnout and possibly claiming their lives.

“One pine tree was all that was there to stop them,” Waldo County Deputy Sheriff Merl Reed said of the Saturday morning accident on U.S. Route 1.

Angie M. Copeland, 83, and her passenger, Fannie Copeland, 85, both of Rockland, were headed north on Route 1 in a 1989 Oldsmobile at 9:25 a.m. when Angie apparently fell asleep at the wheel, Reed said. The car drifted off the right side of the road, hit a mailbox, continued into a ditch and crashed into a rock barrier serving as a guardrail at the highway turnout.

Reed said the impact with the rock caused the vehicle to jump 4 feet into the air before it came down on its right side and skidded past the rocks and into the tree. Had the tree not been there, the car could have tumbled down the embankment and into the Penobscot River more than 100 feet below the roadway, he said.

“They were very lucky that tree was there,” Reed said.

The women were trapped in the vehicle and the car had to be secured before a hydraulic cutting device could be used to remove the roof.

Reed said a witness, Sabattus police Officer Ralph DeStefano, climbed into the car and cradled Angie Copeland’s head until the Stockton Springs ambulance arrived at the scene and rescuers removed the women from the vehicle, which was declared a total wreck.

Both women complained of head and neck pain and were taken to Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast for treatment. Reed said the injuries were not life-threatening.