WATERVILLE — The dramatic early morning crash of tractor trailer milk tanker truck and a sport utility vehicle Saturday shut down part of Interstate 95 south for about five hours, as the overturned tanker stretched across the roadway.
Miraculously, neither driver in the 5:51 a.m. crash on the Messalonskee Bridge was seriously hurt, according to state police Trooper Jeffrey Beach.
“They’re both very lucky,” Beach said later.
The crash occurred just south of Exit 130, the Main Street Exit, when a 2005 Suzuki XL7 driven by Nicholas Hayden, 31, of Bangor was in the driving, or right lane, Beach said.
The 2007 International tractor trailer tanker, driven by Matthew French, 22, of Garland, was in the left lane, crossing the bridge, after merging at the 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.”
 The tractor trailer tried to avoid the SUV by moving to the left but there was nowhere for it to go because there were cement guard rails on either side of the bridge, Beach said.
“He (truck driver) wasn’t able to avoid him,” he 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 collided with the guardrail on left of the road, went out of control and rolled over onto the driver’s side, completely blocking all lanes of travel, with the cab resting on the left side cement rail of the bridge, according to Beach.
The bridge at that point is situated 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.
Meanwhile, some of the milk spilled onto the roadway from the tanker’s being on its side; 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, the truck driver; was not injured; Hayden, driving the SUV, is an Air National Guardsman 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,” he said.
French 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 had no option but to close the Interstate, as the truck was blocking the entire road, he said.
 Initially, they diverted traffic off Exit 130 and onto Main Street, where drivers either could head to Fairfield Center on Route 139 and then to Oakland via Route 23 and back to I-95; or through downtown Waterville and onto Kennedy Memorial Drive and back to the Interstate, Beach said.
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 truck was damaged extensively — with most of the damage occurring to the  tractor — but the tank was damaged all over, he said. The Suzuki was destroyed, he said.
No charges were filed in the accident. One lane of traffic on I-95 was opened back up at 10:35 a.m.; the other was opened at 11:50 a.m.,  according to Beach.
 He said that a few years ago, a fatal accident occurred under the same circumstances at that same spot — and in slushy conditions.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]

 


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