A fire that erupted when a car rear-ended a tractor-trailer on Interstate 95 in Farmingdale Wednesday afternoon set off bullets in the car, hindering efforts to put the fire out and halting traffic on both sides of the highway.

The crash occurred in the northbound lane near mile 106 when a Honda sedan slammed into the back of a tractor-trailer.

Two people in the car and the truck driver were taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta. The injuries were not believed to be life threatening.

Maine State Police Trooper Lee Vanadestine said nobody was hurt inside the car by roughly 40 bullets that were set off by the fire. He said rounds popped off for about 10 minutes, slowing efforts to extinguish the car fire.

“We couldn’t get close to the car,” Vanadestine said. “I could actually see the rounds flying out of the car. It was almost like I was back in Iraq again.”

Vanadestine said southbound traffic had to be shut down to prevent passing motorists from getting hit by the bullets. With his car already stationed in the northbound lane to stop traffic, Vanadestine resorted to walking onto the Interstate to stop the southbound cars.

“I didn’t want people driving by with those rounds clicking off,” he said.

The crash occurred around 1 p.m., as 20-year-old Travis Veilleux, of Winslow, drove north in his Honda. He and his passenger, 20-year-old Stephanie Pleau of Vassalboro, had spent the day at Old Orchard Beach.

Veilleux was in the passing lane just past the Maple Street overpass when he hit the back of the tractor-trailer, which had slowed because of construction.

The truck driver, whom Vanadestine could not immediately identify, told police he was traveling about 25 miles per hour. Vanadestine said the Honda was still going about 70 miles per hour when it hit the truck.

Vanadestine said the hit “was so hard it bounced (the truck driver) around in the cab.”

He said the truck driver was shaken. Injuries to Veilleux and Pleau were more extensive, but were believed not to be life-threatening.

“I think both of these kids are lucky to be alive,” Vanadestine said.

The stopped traffic led to another crash in the northbound lane just south of the original crash. Vanadestine said four cars were involved in that crash, but there were no injuries.

Vanadestine said the northbound and southbound lanes were closed for about an hour.

Traffic backed up for five miles in each direction, reaching the West Gardiner toll booth to the south and Western Avenue in Augusta to the north. For a time, traffic was at a halt and many drivers could be seen walking around outside their cars.

Crews eventually opened a lane in each direction, but normal passage was not restored for more than an hour. Traffic remained backed up more than two hours after the crash, even after all the lanes reopened.

Vanadestine said there are no charges connected to the two loaded handguns or ammunition inside the car. Veilleux is permitted to carry a concealed weapon.

But Vanadestine did expect to charge Veilleux for a driving infraction, either following too close or failure to maintain control of a motor vehicle, which is a distracted driving charge.

“He did come right out and tell me he was distracted,” Vanadestine said. “He said he was eating a sugar stick.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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