Investigators say the combination of speed and a blown tire may have caused a U.S. 201 crash involving a logging truck and an SUV that sent five to the hospital Thursday.

But an area resident and former game warden said Friday the stretch of road north of Moscow may be banked the wrong way along a curve, making an already treacherous highway even more dangerous.

“There’s been a lot of accidents along there,” said Lloyd Trafton, a Somerset County commissioner and 45-year resident of Route 201 in The Forks, north of Moscow. “That is a bad stretch of road.”

Police said the accident happened about 3:30 p.m. Thursday when a southbound 2004 Western Star tractor-trailer belonging to C.M. Gray Trucking, of Milo, blew a left tire and the driver lost control. The load shifted, causing the truck to roll over into the northbound lane. The trailer and logs spilled onto a 2011 Lexus RX 350 SUV, trapping the occupants inside, according to Chief Deputy Dale Lancaster, of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department.

None of the injuries to the four occupants of the SUV, including an 11-month-old baby, was thought by officials to be life threatening.

Lancaster said the truck’s driver, Clyne Labree, “was trying to negotiate a downhill curve and it appears right now it might have been a little faster than could safely be done.”

Lancaster said. “The situation got exacerbated when the tire blew.”

Trafton said it’s a dangerous stretch of Route 201, which is Canada Road in northern Somerset County.

“A majority of accidents have been right in that same corner,” he said. “My thought is that corner leans — it’s banked the wrong way. When you come down around that corner, it tilts towards the outside instead of banking toward the inside like it should.”

Trafton, who was a game warden for 20 years, said there has not been any significant work done to improve the road in many years. He said there are as many as three accidents on that corner every year.

He said the road’s pitch road could be rebuilt to lean away from the curve and the hard drop to Wyman Lake.

“I’m careful every time I go up around that corner,” he said. “I’m watching to see what’s coming because that corner right there has accounted for a large percent of the accidents between Caratunk and Moscow.”

Reggie Knowles, Maine Department of Transportation traffic resource manager for Region 3, said he doesn’t believe the road’s pitch was responsible for Thursday’s accident. He said he was at the scene of the crash Thursday and said contributing factors in most accidents on that corner include speed, curves in the road, load shifting, mechanical problems and heavy truck traffic.

“At one time the road didn’t have enough slope, but the last time the road was rebuilt and engineered there was, I believe, more slope put in there,” Knowles said Friday. “That is a spot where there are a lot of accidents. The pitch of the road wasn’t a contributing factor for the accident. The elevation of the curve wasn’t the contributing factor for the accident that happened yesterday.”

The Lexus was registered in Quebec and driven by Jean Baron, 62, of Quebec City. Baron, Michelle Doucet, 61, and Ammie Baron, 35, also of Quebec City, and an infant were all trapped inside, and parts of the vehicle had to be cut away to remove them.

The Lexus left the road and came to rest in a ditch. Extrication was performed by the Bingham Fire Department.

The driver of the tractor-trailer, Clyne Labree, 46, of Sebec, told investigators he heard a loud bang and lost control, Lancaster said.

Jean Baron was taken by LifeFlight helicopter to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. Baron’s passengers and Labree were taken by ambulance to Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan. All were later transferred to EMMC, Lancaster said. He said they suffered cuts, bruises and broken bones in the accident.

He said the crash remains under investigation, but it appears that speed may have been a contributing cause.

He said the accident will be reviewed by Somerset County district attorney’s office.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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