AUGUSTA — Jim Pinkham pointed to the bruise near his elbow as he explained where he was sitting and how he was hurt Friday evening when a Jeep plowed through the wall of his street-level apartment at 36 Water St. and stopped part way into his living room.

Pinkham was in his chair watching a movie about 7 p.m. when the crash occurred.

The vehicle took out the window air conditioner, broke the window glass, displaced a post and shattered wallboard.

Pieces of wallboard and wood littered the floor and other furniture Saturday, and Pinkham used a headlamp for light as he began sifting through his property. Electricity to Pinkham’s apartment had to be cut off as a result of the crash.

“I’ve got to figure out what I’ve got to replace,” he said. “You’d never know it, but I’m pretty tidy.”

A neighbor, Justin Sawyer, stopped by Saturday to ask how Pinkham was faring the day after the crash.

“I saw the vehicle in his house, and I ran in to check on him,” Sawyer said. “He was covered in insulation.”

Augusta police Sgt. Danny Boivin said the driver, Michael Nicknair, 35, of Augusta, told police he was driving north on Water Street when his 1995 Jeep Cherokee began shaking and veered to the left. He said he tried to apply the brakes before the vehicle went into the building.

No charges were filed, and Boivin said it appeared that Nicknair was unhurt.

Kane Coffin, the building’s owner, had the hole in the apartment boarded up Friday night.

Pinkham, 52, said he didn’t even discover his injury until he went to take a shower at the hotel where he is staying temporarily.

“I was watching TV when it struck, and pieces of furniture flew right in front of my face. I got my arm up in time to prevent something hitting my head,” Pinkham said on Saturday. He said he felt “amazingly lucky.”

Augusta firefighters evacuated the building briefly following the 7 p.m. crash. Occupants of all the other apartments were permitted to return later Friday night.

It’s the second time in the past four years that Pinkham’s apartment has been damaged in a crash.

On the previous occasion, a vehicle struck a stop sign on the Bond Street side of the building. The sign hit Pinkham, then penetrated the building, after which the vehicle also hit the building.

Coffin, who runs Coffin Engineering & Surveying in Chelsea, said Saturday he arranged for repairs and helped Pinkham get temporary housing on Friday.

“I had my structural engineer come from home to certify that the second floor wasn’t going to fall,” Coffin said. He said he expected repairs to take a week or so because this is a holiday weekend.

Along with damaging the exterior wall and living room and contents, the vehicle hit an ornamental lamp post, sending it sprawling across Bond Street.

Bits of filigree from the black lamppost and parts of a vehicle’s grill lay in the gutter on Water Street.

Bill Morton, whose apartment is on the second floor just above Pinkham’s, said the Jeep was heading north on Water Street when it crossed into the other lane, hit the lamppost and went into the side of the building.

“It was very loud,” Morton said. “The whole house shook. Luckily, nobody was hurt or coming from the other direction.”

Morton and another neighbor, Chris Reynolds, said emergency vehicles were at the scene for several hours. Chief Scott Dunbar of the Augusta Fire Department said firefighters evacuated the building and had the electricity cut off.

It was the second time they were called to the area that day.

Firefighters were dispatched to 38 Water St., an adjacent building also owned by Coffin, because of a report of a fire on a stove in an occupied, third-floor apartment.

They had to break down the door to get in and remove the man who lived there, who was unhurt, Dunbar said.

The resident apparently started to cook food, then fell asleep.

Dunbar said the apartment was ventilated and Coffin was notified about the damage to the door.


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