Police continue to investigate a crash that left a Gardiner man dead and went undetected for nearly a week.

State police Trooper Greg Stevens said Tuesday that he is continuing to piece together the last hours of Ian Carter’s life to learn when the 27-year-old’s car crashed in the median of Interstate 295 in Gardiner. The crash, which probably occurred sometime Dec. 28, went unreported for five days until Saturday, when a passing motorist noticed a reflection in the woods. Carter’s Honda Civic was found in the woods in the median. Carter was dead inside.

Stevens said the car was hidden from view by trees and snow.

“How many people passed by there since Tuesday, or Monday night, and nobody saw it,” Stevens said. “Where it was sitting, it was camouflaged in there. We just happened to be lucky enough to have someone spot it. If it had been summer, we probably wouldn’t have seen it.”

Carter apparently was driving north when his car went off the road and into the median strip, where it became airborne. The car hit a tree 25 feet off the ground before descending a steep embankment. A driver in the southbound lane on Saturday saw a reflection from the car coming from the woods.

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said the car was seen Monday as Carter left work at AD&W Architectural Doors & Windows in Westbrook. Investigators believe the crash, which occurred near exit 49 to U.S. Route 201, occurred as Carter was driving home.

Stevens said Carter lived with relatives in Gardiner. They assumed Carter was staying with friends in the Portland area and did not report him missing.

“He was 27,” Stevens said. “He did his own thing. They knew bad weather was coming, so they figured he stayed down there.”

Stevens said there were no skid marks or other visible signs of a crash on the roadway.

“I think if there were skid marks, that would have caught my attention,” he said. “I think it would have been quicker to identify.”

Stevens said there is nothing in the investigation thus far that indicates Carter was operating negligently.

“There’s no criminal aspect,” he said. “A number of things could have happened. We just don’t know. It’s very tragic.”

The crash is the first one to go unreported for several days since an August crash killed a Canadian couple in West Forks Plantation. Family members, searching for the couple, found the wreck a week later.

McCausland said the West Forks crash was the last crash to go unreported for multiple days until Carter’s crash.

“There is no list kept,” McCausland said, “but it happens on occasion.”

Stevens said Carter’s crash was a first for him in more than 20 years of police work.

“Normally they’re seen fairly quickly,” he said.

Carter’s obituary indicates he is the second son of Colon and Cynthia Carter to die. Carter was predeceased by his brother, Brian.

Cynthia Carter on Tuesday said Ian Carter had just completed his first day of work at AD&W and was excited about his new job. He recently had earned his degree in agricultural and engineering design at Southern Maine Community College.

“He was just a wonderful person,” Cynthia Carter said. She declined to comment further.

Ian Carter, according to his obituary, moved from southern Maine to Gardiner with his family when he was in eighth grade. He graduated from Gardiner Area High School in 2006.

Carter played saxophone in the band and jazz band and sang in the chorus, and he appeared in several musicals and the Pizazz variety show, according to the obituary. He was accepted at the prestigious Berklee College of Music.

“He was very proud of this acceptance,” the obituary said, “although cost kept him from that dream.”

Carter was a bicycle enthusiast. His Facebook page includes numerous pictures of bicycles and reports of rides of 80 and 100 miles or more. Carter rode in, and volunteered as a mechanic, for Trek Across Maine for several years.

“Ian was kind, soft spoken and a gentle soul,” his obituary said. “He didn’t want for material things and was happiest when he could be out riding on one of his various bicycles.”

Carter loved his family and friends and enjoyed spending time fishing, camping and hiking, according to the obituary.

Carter’s funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at Staples Funeral Home in Brunswick.

“Please come as you are,” the obituary urges. “Ian would prefer it that way.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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