ALBION — A 55-year-old Palermo man died Wednesday night after the truck he was driving veered off the road and crashed into a utility pole, police said.

Both speed and alcohol appeared to be factors in the 5:34 p.m. crash that killed Earl G. Van Norman, said Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty.

The accident was “very preventable,” Liberty said. “Given the evidence at the scene, it is apparent that Mr. Van Norman was traveling beyond a safe speed … and alcohol was involved.”

Van Norman, who was retired from the Navy, was likely on his way to buy items for dinner, according to friend Natalie Torgeson. She said his wife, Judy, told her he had begun preparing a chicken meal at their Western Ridge Road home before the crash.

Van Norman also had his border collie Emma in the truck with him, Torgeson said. The dog survived the accident.

Torgeson, who also lives in Palermo, said she met Van Norman and his wife, Judy, when they moved to town about 10 years ago.

“He was a very generous, giving person,” Torgeson said Thursday. “He seemed to have a mission to help his neighbors, so people who had problems — plumbing, the roof needed repair — he’d do it and wouldn’t ask for any money. He was kind of a jack of all trades.”

Sheila McCarty, Palermo’s town clerk, said she and other town office staff were stunned when they learned of Van Norman’s death late Thursday afternoon. He was involved with the Palermo Youth Association, a local school group that provides sports for kids, she said.

“It’s a small town here,” she said. “He was well known in town.”

When Van Norman crested Drake Hill Wednesday night, he lost control of his 2008 Dodge Ram 1500, according to Liberty. The initial investigation indicated the truck crossed the center line, left the road, rolled over and snapped a Central Maine Power pole, Liberty said.

Van Norman was not wearing a seatbelt, the sheriff said.

Sgt. Michael Pion, an accident reconstructionist with the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, is investigating the crash.

Deputies arrived at the scene at 5:48 p.m., 12 minutes after being dispatched and they left the crash site as 9:21 p.m.

Torgeson said Van Norman was originally from the Midwest and he and Judy married later in life. They did not have children.

Torgeson met them through the Palermo Christian Church, and she and Judy became close, hiking Mount Katahdin together.

“He was a committed Christian,” Torgeson said. “And he was amazing in so many ways. He adopted homeless chickens, built them a real cool chicken coop that was heated; they had a roost in front of a window to see the sun rise in the morning. He loved animals and was a kind and gentle person.”

Van Norman served a term on the local school committee a few years ago, she said. He maintained a modest farm by growing vegetables, raising pigs and chickens.

A lasting memory for Torgeson is how Van Norman loved her German shepherd, Jake. The two seemed to have a mutual affection for each other.

“Jake would run over to him; he loved Earl,” she said.

Beth Staples — 861-9252

[email protected]


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