FAIRFIELD — A woman killed late Thursday night in a fiery crash on Route 139 could not be immediately identified by authorities because of the extent of the burns and injuries.
The accident was called in at 11:11 p.m. on the 700 block of Norridgewock Road, about five miles south of the Norridgewock town line, Fairfield Police Chief Thomas Gould said.
Gould said later Friday that the identity of the victim would not be released until Monday at the earliest, and that the body was taken to the Office of Chief Medical Examiner for DNA testing.
Roads in the area were icy Thursday night and Gould said the woman appears to have lost control of her car and slid into the path of an oncoming pickup truck, crashing into it head-on.
Jesse Knights, 29, of Madison, said he came upon the accident and tried to get the unconscious woman out of her car, but the heat from the fire made it impossible.
“We saw the wreckage and we saw the fire had started — the car was on fire — and we couldn’t stop until about 100 yards past the fire. It was glare ice,” Knights said. “Somebody yelled that somebody was in the car, so my first thing was to run to the car and try to see if we could get (her) out but it was just too late.
“If I had been two minutes earlier I could have gotten her out.”
He said by the time he got to the car, the fire was in the cab. “I couldn’t get to the door it was so hot. Within 30 seconds of me standing there the whole car had caught. She didn’t make it.”
The driver of the pickup truck, Richard Savage, 33, of Madison, was not seriously injured. Gould said Savage was driving the 2008 Dodge north on Route 139 toward Norridgewock. The woman was heading south.
“It doesn’t look like there was any fault except for the icy road conditions,” Gould said.
Another passerby, Amber Sheppard, 30, of North Anson, said she came upon the scene about the same time as Knights. She also tried to help the woman.
“Both vehicles still had their drivers in them and neither of them were moving at all,” Sheppard said in an email Friday.
“I called 911 and stayed on the phone with the dispatcher for about 10 minutes while we tried everything to get her out of the car. The flames were moving too quickly and there just wasn’t enough time.
“As the flames engulfed the car she stayed unconscious. She did not move or scream.”
Hit and run crash
The fatal crash happened less than an hour after a hit-and-run accident on the same road involving a stolen pickup truck. Police said a man stole two pickups Thursday night before the hit-and-run, then attempted to steal two more but was thwarted when a homeowner fired a shot at him.
Ryan P. Mann, 33, of Oakland, who police believe to have stolen the trucks, was arrested later Thursday in Skowhegan.
Knights said he and Nick Murray, also of Madison, were picking up Knights’ girlfriend, Haley Poulin, 20, of Madison, who had been involved in the hit-and-run accident when they came upon the fatal accident.
Poulin was banged up and sore and her truck was destroyed, he said.
The fatal car crash is not believed to be connected to the hit-and-run crash or stolen vehicles.
Gould said the Fairfield Police Department responded to a report of a stolen 2012 Chevy pickup truck from Waterville police earlier in the evening Thursday. He said Fairfield officers found the vehicle parked in a driveway on Green Road.
“The person who had stolen it had walked up the road to the next house up and stolen another pickup truck — a black 2004 Chevy,” Gould said. “He went out Pirate Lane and into the intersection where he collided with Haley Poulin’s vehicle.”
Gould said the driver of the stolen truck did not stop at the stop sign on Pirate Lane and was struck by Poulin’s 2002 GMC 1500.
The driver drove off and headed to Middle Road, where he pulled into another driveway and tried to steal another truck. He also allegedly broke into a shed and a parked vehicle and took an iPod and other items.
“When he couldn’t find keys to the truck he tried to get back out of the dooryard with the stolen truck, but he couldn’t, so he abandoned it there,” Gould said. “It was a steep driveway and it was icy and he couldn’t get out.”
From there, police said Mann walked to nearby Back Road where he found another vehicle parked in a driveway — his fourth motor vehicle theft attempt of the night — and started it up.
“He got that vehicle running and tried to leave and was confronted by the homeowner,” Gould said. “The homeowner tried to get him to stop and apparently was armed and there was a shot fired. We believe what he was trying to do was shoot the tire out of the vehicle so he couldn’t steal it. The shot hit the ground.”
Skowhegan Police Chief Ted Blais said officers spotted Mann walking along the Margaret Chase Smith Bridges near downtown Skowhegan and stopped him about 12:45 a.m. Friday.
Police did a background check and found Mann had outstanding warrants from Waterville and Skowhegan, and arrested him.
Blais said police found items in Mann’s pockets believed to have been stolen from the earlier motor vehicle break-ins in Fairfield. Mann will be charged later by Fairfield police in connection with the burglaries, thefts and the hit-and-run accident.
Blais said police are also investigating whether Mann is connected to nearly 20 vehicle break-ins in Madison and Skowhegan the past two weekends.