WAYNE — Roland Lamontagne was face down on the ice, his snowmobile resting on top of him, unconscious and unable to breathe.

Belinda Lamontagne wondered if she was going to watch her husband die right there in the middle of Androscoggin Lake.

“He was purple and he kept getting more and more purple,” she said. “When he started gurgling blood, I thought we were losing him.”

But moments later Roland Lamontagne was breathing, followed soon after by flickering eyelashes. Then he talked. After family and friends rushed to his rescue, he was taken by helicopter to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, where he received treatment for a brain bruise, three broken ribs and a lacerated scalp.

He was released from the hospital and was back at home late last week.

“The prognosis is good,” Belinda Lamontagne said a few days after the accident, which happened Feb. 11.

Lamontagne’s journey from the edge of death back to life began on the ice with a group of friends who were the first to provide aid and then worked with first responders to get him to land.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it myself,” Belinda Lamontagne said. “I am truly grateful for everyone who was out there. They did a fabulous job keeping him alive.”

The Lamontagnes have owned the Wayne Country Store on Main Street for eight years. The couple has made friends with the regulars who drop by the old country store daily to catch up on the latest news about town.

On Feb. 11, a couple of those friends stopped by the Lamontagnes’ Leeds home on Lakeview Drive, which is along the shore of Androscoggin Lake. The couple was invited to join a fishing party out on the ice being hosted by Jason Burgess, of Wayne, and his family.

“Basically, the whole family goes out there every weekend,” said Burgess.

The Lamontagnes visited with their friends for about an hour and half before deciding to head for home around 4:30 p.m.

“He had a hat on and I motioned to him to tie your hat or you’re going to lose it,” Belinda Lamontagne said.

Rollover on the ice

The couple took off on different snowmobiles.

Roland Lamontagne never tied his hat and within moments it flew off and he reached back with his right hand to grab it. With one hand off the handlebars, the snowmobile turned sharply to the right.

“His snowmobile fetched up on the ice and kind of high-sided and rolled from there,” said Burgess, whose brother, Jeremy Burgess, of Turner, witnessed the accident. After the crash “he was motionless.”

Carey Buck, of Livermore Falls, who was visiting her friends with her boyfriend, Scott Maxwell of Livermore Falls, said the snowmobile rolled over at least three times. Everyone in the fishing party raced to help.

By the time Belinda Lamontagne turned her snowmobile and raced back to her husband, he was already in trouble.

“The snowmobile came down on top of his head,” she said.

Lamontagne and her friends were initially afraid to move her husband, but he did not resume breathing.

“We were debating whether to do CPR,” Jason Burgess said. “He really looked dead.”

Jeremy Burgess decided to straighten Lamontagne’s neck. As blood streamed out, he started breathing.

Others in the party — including Charles and Cheryl Timberlake of Mount Vernon, and Jeremy and Jason Burgess’ wives, Destiny and Amanda Burgess, and their uncle, Sam Burgess — layered Lamontagne in blankets to try to keep him warm. His condition continued to improve.

“It was very quick thinking by the people on the ice,” Buck said.

Meanwhile, after dialing 911 four times and getting a recorded message, Jason Burgess said he was finally able to get through to dispatcher Brian Roche at the Winthrop Police Department. Roche, who also is deputy chief for the Wayne Fire Department, told Burgess to meet first responders at the Wayne boat launch.

Firefighters from all six Lakes Region Mutual Aid communities, which also includes Fayette, Manchester, Mount Vernon, Readfield and Vienna, converged on the Main Street launch.

The rescue

Jason Burgess quickly covered the roughly two miles to the boat launch on his four-wheeler. He was met there by a Winthrop Ambulance and three Wayne volunteer firefighters, who had a rescue sled, but no way to pull it.

“I was told we had to wait for Manchester to respond,” Jason Burgess said.

Instead, he and the firefighters — Burgess doesn’t know their names — hooked the rescue sled to Burgess’ four-wheeler. One firefighter rode on the seat behind Burgess and a Winthrop Ambulance crewman was in the sled.

Rescuers called for a LifeFlight helicopter once they reached Lamontagne, though his condition had improved significantly by that time.

“When they got out there, he was responsive,” Jason Burgess said.

Burgess said it took about 15 minutes to load Lamontagne onto the backboard and begin the trek back to shore. They met the Manchester track unit on the way.

“We were three-quarters of the way back in before that track unit was on the lake,” Burgess said. “I think it was 45 minutes or so total by the time we got him back in. I believe it would have been 90 minutes if we had waited.”

Belinda Lamontagne said her husband has no recollection of the accident or even going onto the lake that day.

She said the couple has health insurance through Bath Iron Works, where her husband works full-time.

“He’s doing all right now, but it’s going to be a long recovery,” she said. “The prognosis is good.”

Belinda Lamontagne is thankful her husband is on the mend, but the experience has convinced her that every community — particularly those noted for snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle use — should have a rescue sled available and a way to tow it.

Wayne Fire Chief James Welch did not return a phone call seeking comment.

“Each town should have a snowmobile,” Jason Burgess said. “The snowmobile and rescue sled should be in a garage and ready to roll. It would really save a lot of time.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

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