Friday, May 24, 2013
WATERVILLE -- The cause of a six-vehicle crash downtown that sent six people to the hospital Sunday is still under investigation.
Deputy Chief Charles Rumsey said Nancy Hazard, 42, of Waterville, was driving south on College Avenue at a high rate of speed just before her car struck four other vehicles waiting at the stoplight at Post Office Square, causing one of them to hit another vehicle. The crash closed two blocks of College Avenue for more than three hours.
Rumsey said emergency responders used the Jaws of Life to extract Hazard from her SUV. She was listed in critical condition at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and was undergoing unspecified medical treatment Monday.
"We have not had an opportunity to speak to her yet," he said.
Rumsey said nine people were involved. The drivers of all six vehicles were injured with "varying degrees of seriousness." All but two of them were treated and released Sunday from Waterville hospitals. Only one car contained passengers, who were the wife and two children of that car's driver.
More than 50 people gathered near the crash site Sunday evening while emergency responders extricated drivers from their rumpled vehicles and investigators surveyed the debris-strewn scene. Several witnesses said Hazard's actions seemed purposeful, but Rumsey said police are still investigating.
"We're not comfortable drawing that conclusion," he said of eyewitness reports. "We have not had an opportunity to speak to (Hazard) yet."
Rumsey said Sgt. Mike Pion, a crash reconstructionist from the Kennebec County Sheriff's Office, is involved in the case, and the investigation will remain open until Pion's report is finished, interviews are conducted and a blood sample is taken from Hazard on Sunday is analyzed. The entire process could take more than a week, Rumsey said.
He said the reconstruction also will determine Hazard's speed, which several witnesses said was between 70 and 80 mph. The speed limit at the crash site is 25 mph.
Eriq Stewart, 18, was waiting at the intersection in his black GMC pickup truck when he was struck by Hazard's 2008 Suzuki SX4. He said the SUV slammed into the truck next to him, which was totaled, and grazed his truck. The Suzuki went airborne, flipped and spun across about 40 feet before slamming into the rear bumpers of two cars waiting at the light.
One of those cars was pushed forward and struck a sixth vehicle - a white 2000 Nissan pickup truck driven by Tamara Geschwendt, 50, of Waterville.
The truck next to Stewart - a silver Toyota Tacoma - was driven by Karl Andresen, 69, of Winslow. Andresen suffered serious back injuries, Rumsey said.
After colliding with Andresen's truck, Hazard's airborne SUV barrelled into two cars - a red 2005 Nissan sedan driven by Jeffrey Quirion, 47, of Waterville, and a gray 1996 Chevy Lumina driven by Deril Stubenrod, 42.
Stubenrod; his wife, Patty Stubenrod, 33; and two young sons were waiting for the light to turn green when the father heard a short squeal and looked into his rear-view mirror.
"I only had about a half-second warning before impact," he said.
The back end of the car was smashed into the passenger compartment where Matthew, 7, and Charles, 6, were sitting. At the same time, the front seats collapsed backward onto the boys' legs.
Stubenrod said his family suffered only minor injuries.
"Thankfully, all we got was a bucketload of bumps and scrapes," he said. "I cannot say enough good about the firefighters that were there, the EMS providers and the good Samaritans that were on scene, reassuring my kids."
Stubenrod said 2012 already has been a tough year. In February, the family was displaced from its Benton home by a fire. Then, on Sunday, their only car was totaled.
Even so, Stubenrod said he's grateful.
"All I can do is look up and say thanks, because I know God protected us - not once, but twice this year," he said.
Ben McCanna -- 861-9239