SKOWHEGAN — A three-unit efficiency building on Madison Avenue was destroyed early Tuesday when the driver of a tractor-trailer suffered a coughing fit that sent his vehicle smashing into the front of the building, police said.

“He started coughing and went off the road, just like that. It’s strange but fortunate that he wasn’t killed and that he didn’t hurt anybody,” Skowhegan Police Chief Ted Blais said.

Around 4 a.m., Robert Johnson, of Harmony, was driving the tractor-trailer south on Madison Avenue, which is U.S. Route 201, and veered off the road into the building, which is part of the Towne Motel at 172 Madison Ave., Blais said.

No one was staying in the building at the time, but a night clerk in the hotel office next door heard the crash and called owners Roger and Deborah Poulin.

“The night person called me and said a tractor-trailer had hit the house next door,” Deborah Poulin said. “It totally pushed the couch across the room and shifted the entire foundation of the building.”

There will be no charges against Johnson, Blais said, although the Maine State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement office will be investigating the accident. Johnson was driving an empty tractor-trailer for Pottle’s Transportation, of Bangor, he said. He was treated at the scene for a minor injury.


Blais said he didn’t know how fast the truck was traveling or whether anything was wrong with the truck that might have caused it to crash. “I don’t have any information on it not being safe, so I imagine it was a safe vehicle and the cause was just operator error,” he said.

The damage to the building is estimated to be several thousand dollars, Blais said. The building’s foundation has shifted, making it unsafe, and in addition to the front corner being pushed in, parts of the floor have collapsed into the basement, Poulin said. Also, the chimney was broken.

“I don’t expect to be able to save it,” she said. “If a building is unstable, you lose everything. The most important thing is that no one was hurt.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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