WATERVILLE — A dramatic early-morning collision of a tractor-trailer milk tanker and a sport utility vehicle shut down part of Interstate 95’s southbound lanes for about five hours Saturday, with the overturned tanker stretched across the roadway.
Neither driver in the 5:51 a.m. crash on the Messalonskee Bridge was hurt severely, according to state police Trooper Jeffrey Beach.
“They’re both very lucky,” Beach said.
The crash occurred just south of Exit 130, the Main Street exit. Nicholas Hayden, 31, of Bangor was driving a 2005 Suzuki XL7 in the right lane, Beach said. The 2007 International tractor-trailer, driven by Matthew French, 22, of Garland was in the left lane, crossing the bridge, after merging at the Exit 130 on-ramp, he said.
“The SUV was in the driving (right) lane, being overtaken by the tractor-trailer,” Beach said. “The roads were still a little icy and slushy, especially as you cross the bridge. The SUV lost control, began to fishtail sideways, crossing the center line directly in front of the truck.”
French tried to avoid the SUV by moving to the left, but cement guard rails on either side of the bridge offered no room to escape. French “wasn’t able to avoid him,” Beach said. “The SUV came right into his path of travel, and he collided with the passenger side — broadside — of the SUV.”
At that point, the tractor-trailer struck the guardrail on the left side of the road, went out of control and rolled onto the driver’s side, completely blocking all travel lanes, with the cab resting on the cement railing on the bridge’s left side, according to Beach.
The bridge at that point crosses over Old County Road, he said.
The tanker, full to the brim with milk, is owned by Day’s Milk Transport, owned by Eugene Day, of Garland, according to Beach.
A wrecker could not get the tanker truck upright until the milk was removed from the tanker, so an empty tanker had to be brought in and the milk pumped into it, Beach said.
Some of the milk spilled onto the roadway. Less than 100 gallons of diesel also spilled, Beach said.
Officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection, as well as Clean Harbors — a commercial cleanup company — arrived, and the spilled milk and diesel was suctioned from the road, he said.
French was uninjured. Hayden is an Air National Guard member who was in uniform and driving from Bangor to a weekend drill in Portland at the time of the accident, Beach said.
“He was alert and conscious at the scene, but with a possible head injury,” Beach said.
Hayden was taken to a local hospital, where he was treated and released, according to the trooper.
“The road conditions were definitely a factor in the crash, and the driver of the SUV is certainly going to be at fault. He lost control of the vehicle in front of the truck,” Beach said.
Officials initially diverted traffic off Exit 130 and onto Main Street. Once officials got signs and enough manpower, they diverted traffic off I-95 at the Irving truck stop at Exit 132, where motorists could head up Route 139 to Fairfield Center and over to Oakland, he said.
The state Department of Transportation arrived with signs and barriers and trucks; Waterville firefighters helped with cleanup and making the scene secure, Beach said.
The tractor-trailer was damaged extensively, with most of the damage occurring to the tractor, he said. The Suzuki was destroyed, he said.
No charges were filed in the accident. One lane of traffic on I-95 was reopened at 10:35 a.m.; the other, at 11:50 a.m., according to Beach.
A few years ago, he said, a fatal accident occurred under the same circumstances at that same spot — and in slushy conditions.
Amy Calder — 861-9247