WATERVILLE — A city man who accidentally shot part of his face off with a high-powered hunting rifle was in stable condition at a Boston hospital Thursday night, according to his father.
“He is in stable condition and his vital signs are good, although he will need reconstructive surgery for his facial wounds,” Donald Poulin, of Winslow, said by phone from Massachusetts General Hospital.
According to police, Dale Poulin, 31, of Ash Street, was visiting friends at 218 College Ave. around 9 p.m. Wednesday and exchanging hunting stories when he went outside and brought in a .270-caliber hunting rifle. At one point, Poulin put the barrel of the rifle under his chin and pulled the trigger, said Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey.
Poulin’s father said that although his son is unable to speak, he can respond to questions by writing on a notepad and told his father Thursday that he had accidentally dropped the rifle. Dale Poulin had been hunting during the day Wednesday before the accident later that night, his father said.
“He told me he dropped the rifle,” Donald Poulin said. “He wrote it on the notepad. He said, âDad, I just dropped the rifle and it accidentally discharged.'”
Massey said Poulin believed the rifle was not loaded and that he had no intention of committing suicide.
When police went to the apartment, they found Poulin in a large pool of blood and able to communicate only by shaking his head. Massey described a grisly scene, with Poulin’s chin on the floor, and blood, teeth and skin everywhere.
“It was a very chaotic scene to go to, with people outside screaming somebody had been shot inside,” Massey said. “It was very chaotic and very tense for a few minutes until they determined what happened.”
Massey said the accident illustrates the dangers of improperly and unsafely handling firearms.
“It was one of those cases which clearly involved carelessness, passing a rifle around, and no one made sure, obviously, it was not loaded. And then they do something as careless as putting the rifle under their chin and pulling the trigger,” Massey said.
He said the other people at the scene are known to police, and officers have determined no foul play was involved and the shooting was accidental.
Poulin was taken initially by Delta Ambulance to MaineGeneral Medical Center’s Thayer Campus on North Street, then flown by helicopter to a Portland hospital to undergo surgery, Massey said. He was then transferred to the Boston hospital for further surgery, according to Massey.
Massey said police found Poulin sitting with the rifle between his legs and a bullet hole through the brim of his cap. The bullet went through the ceiling and into the attic area of the apartment, Massey said.
When the officers spoke with people at the scene, they said Poulin had come to visit earlier in the night and had walked in with a bottle of whiskey, Massey said.
“Guns and alcohol — they just don’t mix,” the police chief said. “Dangerous combination.”
Meanwhile, David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, called the shooting horrific and tragic and an incident everyone can learn from.
He said the first rule of safety is to always treat a firearm as if it is loaded and never assume it is not. Also, a firearm should never be pointed at oneself or others, he said.
“Certainly, I think all of us who own firearms should learn from this man’s experience and pass it along to people we care about and anyone considering owning firearms,” Trahan said.
He said such accidental shootings don’t occur very often.
“When it does, it’s horrific,” he said.
Staff Writer Rachel Ohm contributed to this report.
Amy Calder — 861-9247