A business owner and former Unity selectman died Thursday morning from injuries suffered Wednesday when a passing vehicle struck the lawnmower he was riding with his 5-year-old granddaughter on Albion Road in Unity, according to Waldo County Sheriff Jeff Trafton.

Clement Blakney, 66, of 317 Albion Road, which is U.S. Route 202 and state Route 9, was driving the lawnmower with his granddaughter in his lap and crossing the road in front of his Unity home when a Nissan sport utility vehicle being driven north toward Unity by Nicole Ellis, 46, of Fairfield, hit the lawnmower, Trafton said Thursday.

Blakney and his wife, Jeri, own Younity Winery & Vineyards, Inc., a business that opened in 2009 and is visible from Albion Road. Clement Blakney also was a former Unity selectman.

Jackie Reny, of Vassalboro, a longtime friend of the Blakneys, said Thursday she was shocked to learn of his death.

“He was a kind, charismatic, thoughtful guy, community supportive, a great friend, very generous” she said.

Reny and her husband, Peter, are members of the Vassalboro Business Association. She said Blakney helped the association raise money to help students from Vassalboro to attend college by hosting a wine tasting at The Olde Mill on Main Street in that town.

“He will be dearly missed,” she said.

The accident was reported at 4:27 p.m. Wednesday, according to Trafton, the sheriff. Blakney was taken by Unity Volunteer Ambulance Corp. to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and died sometime before 3:34 a.m. Thursday, he said.

He said Clement had suffered multiple injuries in the crash, including a severe head injury.

His granddaughter was taken to a Waterville hospital. A sheriff’s sergeant who went to the hospital Wednesday evening reported she had injuries that were not life-threatening, he said.

Ellis also was taken by Unity Ambulance to a Waterville hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, he said.

Trafton, who went to the crash scene, said it was his understanding Clement’s granddaughter was in his lap when the accident occurred.

He described the lawnmower as a zero-turn lawnmower that is steered with levers, unlike a traditional driving lawnmower.

No charges had been filed in the accident as of Thursday.

“Initially there was no indication of any wrongdoing,” Trafton said.

He said state police worked to reconstruct the crash Wednesday night, but darkness fell before the task was completed, so they were planning to return Thursday morning with a drone and map the scene to finish the reconstruction effort.

Connie Bellet and Phil White Hawk, of Palermo, good friends of the Blakneys, were grieving Thursday afternoon over the loss, describing the Blakneys as loving, hardworking people.

“We knew him very, very well,” White Hawk said. “When I heard about his demise, it was just like a physical blow. I’m still dealing with it. Clem was an extremely creative person. He was a generous person and giving of himself to other people. He was innovative, an extreme computer wizard, and Connie and I worked with him for years when he first came to Unity. We helped him plant the grapes for the vineyard. There were thousands of grapes that we planted and they were just little, bitty twigs. It was marvelous over the years to see them grow and see Clem prosper.”

Bellet helped to design the labels for the winery products and had designed another one recently that Clem Blakney never got the chance to see, she said.

“The thing I miss most about Clem is his sense of humor,” she said. “He was just a bright light shining from Unity. He was a very dear friend. He was a punster; he liked word games and things like that. He just had a delightful radiance about him. It was just so wonderful to be in his presence, tramping around in his bare feet in his vineyard, rain or shine, taking care of his grapes, Jeri beside him. He would have parties, sometimes with fireworks, in his backyard. He wanted to make life a fun thing for people.”

On Thursday, vehicles rushed along Albion Road in front of Younity Winery and the Blakney home, where orange traffic cones had been set up at the end of the driveway, indicating the business was closed.

A man across the road at TA’s Automotive Sales and Service said he was there Wednesday when the accident occurred, but he declined to comment, other than to say the Blakneys are nice people.

The accident occurred 4 miles from the Albion town line.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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