ROCKLAND, Maine — Rockland police Officer William Smith, who also serves as a volunteer firefighter for neighboring Rockport, broke two bones in his back Saturday during a training exercise.
Smith said Monday he is not sure how long he will be laid up from the accident. He said there is no paralysis but a lot of pain.
“I’m pretty uncomfortable,” Smith said from his hospital bed at Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport. “I have no definitive answers, but they’re trying to manage the pain.”
Smith’s video of him sledding with local children down a hill off Mechanic Street in Rockland last week was widely publicized and praised for setting a good example of community policing. The Rockland Police Department posted the video on its Facebook page, noting, “Word is he’s undefeated. Who can take the crown from him? #gotsled.”
Smith was participating in training exercises at a house in Searsmont around noon Saturday when the accident occurred. Firefighters from Rockland, Rockport, Lincolnville and other midcoast communities were participating in the exercises, which included climbing up a fire hose from the basement to the first floor.
Smith was about 4 feet up when his foot got caught on something and he fell backward, landing on an air pack strapped to his back.
“It was kind of a freak accident,” Smith said.
Rockport Fire Chief Jason Peaseley agreed it was a freak accident.
Smith started as a firefighter and emergency medical services responder for Rockland in the early 1990s. Then he became a police officer after his friend, Maine State Police Trooper James “Drew” Griffith, died in the line of duty in a cruiser accident in Thomaston in April 1996.
Smith has been with the Rockland Police Department since 1996 and began volunteering again as a firefighter about a year ago for the Rockport Fire Department.
The veteran officer has dealt with another health issue several years before Saturday’s accident. A few years ago, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Smith said the doctors believe it is benign, and it has shown no signs of growing after he underwent radiation treatments.
After he recovered from the tumor, he decided he wanted to use his skills as a firefighter again and joined the Rockport department as a volunteer.