Monday, December 9, 2013
BIDDEFORD – To his neighbors, 15-month-old Lavarice Elliott is known affectionately as "the baby."
Biddeford resident Priscilla Lapointe lives at 356 Elm st. and was a witness during the aftermath of the truck hitting family of bicyclists last Friday in Biddeford. In this Tuesday, Aug. 6 photo, she points to the street from her top-floor apartment where she saw the bicyclists minutes before the crash.
John Patriquin / Staff Photographer
"You can hear him running around," said Lisa Allen, a neighbor and friend of Lavarice's family who is fond of the outgoing toddler. "I do miss that 7 a.m. wake-up call when he's pounding up there ... with little plastic hammers."
Lavarice is fighting for his life at Maine Medical Center in Portland, as is his father. They and the boy's mother were hit by a blue pickup truck Friday while bicycling on the Elm Street sidewalk in Biddeford.
"It's an empty sound now," said Allen, who has been friends with Melodie Brennan and Jamerico Elliott since March, when Allen moved into the four-unit apartment building off the north end of Elm Street, a mile from where the crash occurred.
Lavarice has broken legs, she said, but the boy's bicycle helmet surely spared his head more serious injury.
Police continue to investigate the crash and hope the results of the pickup driver's blood test will be ready this week.
Alcohol may have been a factor in the crash, police said, but they have not charged the driver, David Labonte, 56, of Kennebunkport, who has been staying with his family in Biddeford. They say Labonte, who has four drunken-driving convictions, had a cooler with unopened beer in the truck. They estimate he was driving between 30 and 35 mph.
Labonte told the Portland Press Herald on Sunday that he has asthma, and that he had a coughing fit and may have fainted just before he hit the bicyclists.
The northbound truck crossed three lanes of traffic before the collision. It left no skid marks.
Kim Connor was working inside Republicash at 6 p.m. Friday when she heard "a god-awful noise," sort of a "whistling sound." She still doesn't know what it was.
That was followed by a blur of blue flashing past the front door, things falling from the air outside and then a loud crash.
Connor called 911, but did not venture beyond the front door when she learned that a child had been hit. "There are some things you can't unsee," she said.
Priscilla Lapointe was at the crash scene moments after Labonte's pickup slammed into her apartment building, at 356 Elm St.
Lapointe had been sitting in her chair on the second-floor porch when she saw the family ride by. "I was kind of smiling cause the helmet was bigger than the kid," she said.
Five to 10 minutes later, as she went inside to watch the news, she heard a crash, followed by a louder crash that shook the house, when the truck hit part of the foundation.
She knew someone was hurt.
When Lapointe went outside, she saw Jamerico Elliott, 51, lying motionless on the ground and Lavarice, one of his legs twisted, lying silent a short distance away, near the pickup truck.
The bicycle seat he had been riding in behind his father lay on the ground near one of the wheels, largely intact, she said. The driver was still in the truck, and she didn't hear him say anything.
Melodie Brennan, 30, was being helped by a neighbor. She occasionally walked over and looked at her child, then walked back and sat down.
"She was kind of in shock," Lapointe said.
The father never moved. The boy was bleeding from the mouth. Other bystanders, keeping watch over the child, said repeatedly, "He's still breathing."
Rescue workers took the family to Southern Maine Medical Center in Biddeford, then transferred the father and son to Maine Medical Center, where they remained in critical condition Tuesday.
Lisa Allen said she and Brennan get along well, watching TV and running errands together. Jamerico Elliott, who is outgoing and comfortable to be around, enjoys cooking Southern-style barbecue in the backyard, she said.
They're often at home with their toddler and frequently go out for family bike rides, she said.
"Almost every night, they take (Lavarice) bicycling on the back of the bike. If they can't get out on the bike, they're out walking," she said.
The parents always made sure the child had his helmet, she said.
Allen said Brennan has family members staying with her, and has maintained her composure -- but Allen's not sure how long that can last.
"She's holding it together," said Allen, who can see her friend is frayed. "I tell her, 'Just keep calm and do what you have to do.'"
David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: