The owner of a trucking company hauling construction debris said a truck’s tailgate popped open under pressure from the material in the truck bed, spilling debris Thursday night on Interstate 295.

The incident, around 7:45 p.m., resulted in construction debris spilling on the highway, damaging tires on about 15 cars.

The debris – including gravel, boards and chunks of concrete – was dumped in the southbound lanes of I-295 near Exit 3 in South Portland. Drivers began calling Maine State Police to report they had flat tires after hitting items in the road.

Authorities initially thought the truck was owned by Sargent Corp., which is clearing debris from a construction project on State Street, but the Stillwater company said the truck was owned by Scott Bowen Trucking in Jay, which had been hired to help haul the debris.

Scott Bowen, the owner of the firm, said the tailgate popped open because of pressure from the muddy, wet material in the truck bed, but he said the truck wasn’t overloaded.

Bowen said he wasn’t driving the truck at the time and he declined to name the driver.

He said calls from drivers whose tires were damaged have been referred to his insurance company. Bowen declined to comment further.

Initially, officials thought a rough joint on an overpass might have caused the tailgate to pop open, but an inspection of the bridge joint Friday afternoon showed no problem.

“We’re not sure of the cause of why that would happen,” Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot said of the incident, but he added that officials were sure it wasn’t because of the bridge joint.

The trucker had already removed most of the debris by the time MDOT arrived to assist in the cleanup Thursday night, Talbot said.

State police are investigating the incident and would not say if the driver or company will be cited. A call to the trooper who handled the call wasn’t returned Friday night.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

[email protected]

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