A woman from Rhode Island was killed Thursday when a tractor-trailer truck hauling a load of recycled paper products crashed through a steel guardrail, crossed the median and collided head-on with the woman’s sport utility vehicle on the Maine Turnpike in Kittery.

Christine Anderson, 59, of Smithfield, Rhode Island, was driving north toward her camp in Rangeley when she was hit by the truck.

Maine State Police investigators said Anderson and her husband, James, own property in the northwestern Maine town. James Anderson was notified of his wife’s death Thursday night.

Trooper Dan Worcester said the accident, which occurred around 12:30 p.m. in the northbound lanes, forced authorities to shut down all three northbound lanes of the turnpike twice – the first time to remove the SUV and the second time to remove the tractor-trailer.

During both lane closures, northbound traffic backed up into New Hampshire, a distance of about two miles. Both closures lasted about 15 minutes.

“This is one of the most severe crashes we’ve had in recent months,” said Erin Courtney, a spokeswoman for the Maine Turnpike Authority. “We’ve had trucks take out 800 feet of guardrail before, but never cross over like this one did.”

Worcester identified the truck driver as Daniel Dunlea, 58, of Londonderry, New Hampshire. Dunlea works for Reas Transportation of Billerica, Massachusetts.

Dunlea was driving south on the turnpike, hauling what police said appeared to be a full load of recycled paper products, when his rig smashed through the guardrail and crossed into the northbound lanes of the turnpike, hitting the Buick SUV head-on.

Troopers from the state police commercial vehicle enforcement unit were called in to examine the truck for mechanical defects, and to interview Dunlea.

Worcester said the unit will look for any evidence of distracted driving, such as texting. It also will try to determine whether the driver might have been using drugs or alcohol when he lost control of the rig.

Worcester said he has not ruled out the possibility that Dunlea suffered some type of medical problem, but said his investigation did not turn up any evidence of one.
The enforcement unit also will check Dunlea’s logbook. “We are looking at whether he was tired,” Worcester said.

Parents Against Tired Truckers was formed in Maine 20 years ago after four teenagers were killed on the turnpike when a truck crushed the car they were in. An investigation determined that the trucker had been driving excessive hours without rest and had falsified his logbook. At the time of the accident, he was asleep and never touched his brakes.

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