SEARSPORT, Maine — Three people needed to be extricated from their vehicles and taken to a Bangor hospital after a near head-on collision Sunday afternoon on U.S. Route 1.
The crash caused a 45-minute-long closure of the busy coastal thoroughfare, leading to some exasperation among other drivers, several of whom got into three other collisions — including another head-on crash — while seeking alternative routes out of town, according to police.
“People were tired of sitting and waiting,” Searsport Police Chief Dick LaHaye said Monday afternoon. “So the secondary road crashes were a result of traffic being rerouted and people not really knowing where they were going. The last thing that any police agency wants to do is shut a road down. Sometimes, due to the nature of the investigation, it needs to happen.”
Details of the initial crash, which occurred about 2:40 p.m. Sunday near the Stockton Springs town line, remained sparse the day after the crash. LaHaye said there were no witnesses to the crash, which is still under investigation.
What is known is that Teresa Sirois, 34, of Belfast, who had a 3-year-child with her in her 2002 Mercury Sable, collided nearly head-on with a 2008 Pontiac driven by John Theriault, 62, of Gouldsboro, who was traveling with passenger Peggy Thoner, 40, also of Gouldsboro.
The 3-year-old was not injured and was placed in the care of family members who came to the crash scene as first responders worked on helping the other three people, who were pinned in their vehicles and needed to be extricated with a hydraulic device, the chief said.
On Monday, Sirois remained at Eastern Maine Medical Center, suffering from a broken leg and other injuries. Theriault also suffered a broken leg and other injuries and Thoner suffered cuts and abrasions in the accident, according to the police chief.
“As horrific as it was, the [safety] equipment in the vehicles worked,” LaHaye said, adding that the equipment included a child safety seat. “People are alive, probably because of seat belts.”
But the chief had blunt language for those who tired of waiting in the long lines of stalled traffic and tried to find another way out. Those drivers caused crashes at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Turnpike Road in Searsport, on Harris Road in Stockton Springs and on Old County Road in Searsport. No one was injured in the three secondary crashes but they could have been, LaHaye said, urging motorists to be more patient.
“These situations happen,” he said of crash-related road closures. “They’re infrequent but they do happen. The public needs to be aware of that and be more understanding. We understand that people want to get from point A to point B. We also have a responsibility to the public to keep people safe.”
Searsport police officials were assisted at the scene by members of the Stockton Springs Police Department, Waldo County Sheriff’s Office, Knox County Sheriff’s Office, Searsport Ambulance, Searsport Fire, Stockton Springs Ambulance, Stockton Springs Fire, Belfast Ambulance, and Prospect Fire. Helicopters from LifeFlight of Maine also were called in.