Police said it now appears that an SUV driven by Ralph D. Ryder Jr. was headed east and crossed the center line of U.S. Route 202 in an accident that killed a Winthrop father and son Tuesday.

The conclusion reverses earlier statements about which vehicle crossed the center line in the head-on crash.

The accident occurred about 8:15 a.m. Tuesday in Leeds.

Initial reports, based on an eyewitness interview, were that the Ghislain “Gus” Cloutier, 49, and his son Casey Cloutier were eastbound in a 2007 Honda Accord that crossed the center line and struck a westbound 2003 Ford Explorer.

The Explorer was driven by Ryder, 59, of Livermore, who was injured in the crash.

Ryder was reported in good condition at Central Maine Medical Center on Wednesday. A phone message seeking his condition on Friday was not returned.

Friday, Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Glenn Holt said in a prepared statement that the investigation has revealed that “the preliminary information that we had released on the day of the accident was inaccurate.”

He said it’s now clear Cloutier was driving west, and Ryder east, and Ryder was the one who crossed the center line, not Cloutier.

Holt said that “the reconstruction process, as well as the re-interview of the witness and other interviews of the accident investigation” made investigators reach the new conclusion.

Trooper Daniel Hanson, of the Maine State Police, who was called to the scene to reconstruct the crash to help determine what happened, said initial information given to him was that a witness reported Cloutier was heading east and Ryder heading west.

“There was very little when it came to physical evidence, some gouge marks in the roadway and fluid and some debris,” Hanson said.

However, he said that physical evidence was inconsistent with what the witness had reported.

“The only likely scenario I saw was that vehicles were in opposite places,” Hanson said on Friday morning. “The SUV crossed into the other lane and they were traveling opposite the direction that the witness stated.”

He said he was working with officers from Androscoggin County, including their primary investigator on the crash Sgt. Brian Smith.

The Cloutiers were headed from their Winthrop home to catch a bus in Auburn so Casey, 14, a student at St. Dominic Academy, could attend a hockey tournament.

Hanson said Ryder was interviewed and said he had been in Lewiston and was headed to an appointment in Augusta.

In that case, the Cloutier vehicle was likely to be heading west and the Ryder vehicle east.

“We still don’t know why it happened,” Hanson said, adding that a final report could be weeks away. He said there was no indication why the eastbound vehicle would have crossed the center line.

Both Holt and Hanson said the investigation is continuing.

Hanson also said the witness might have been mistaken because the crash was a traumatic event that happened so quickly.

“I believe the witness felt that’s what they saw but mistook what they saw because it happened so fast,” he said.

The speed limit is 50 mph on the section of the road where the accident occurred.

A memorial Mass for the Cloutiers is set for 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Francis Xavier Church, 130 Route 133, Winthrop, according to Knowlton Hewins Roberts Funeral Homes & Cremation Service.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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