KINGFIELD - A five-vehicle crash on Route 142, involving a school bus and four other vehicles, sent two to the hospital this morning. A secondary crash, involving another vehicle that rolled over shortly after the first accident, damaged a sixth vehicle.
According to Sheriff Scott Nichols, first responders were called to the scene at approximately 7:40 a.m. this morning, with Nichols and Franklin County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Kevin Hartley arriving with two NorthStar EMS ambulances and firefighters from Kingfield, Carrabassett Valley, Salem and New Portland. FCSO believes that rain turning to sudden ice was a factor in the crash.
According to Nichols, at approximately 7:20 a.m. it began to rain on the previously dry roads, turning them into ice. At 7:40 a.m., a grey 2007 Toyota Avalon was traveling westbound on Route 142, while an International school bus, identified by MSAD 58 Superintendent Susan Pratt as an Unorganized Territory bus delivering eight elementary students to the Kingfield Elementary School, was simultaneously traveling eastbound on Route 142. As the two vehicles approached each other, Nichols said, the operator of the Avalon lost control on the ice, skidding into the snow bank and crossing the road in front of the bus, colliding head on.
The operator of the Avalon was Judi Hawkes, 55 of Cumberland. The bus was operated by Debra Johnson, 62 of Kingfield.
Traveling eastbound behind the school bus was a red 2006 Dodge Durango, operated by Erica Bracy, 39 of Freeman Township. Bracy was able to stop her vehicle without hitting the bus; however, a 2008 Chevy Tahoe behind the Durango had just rounded the corner and was unable to stop on the ice. The Tahoe, operated by Brian Leblanc, 32 of Salem, struck the Durango and propelled both vehicles into the rear of the school bus.
A fifth vehicle, a 2015 Jeep Cherokee operated by Donna Chase, 63 of Kingfield, was traveling eastbound behind the Tahoe and came upon the scene. Chase avoided colliding with the vehicles, which now blocked the roadway, by driving her Cherokee up onto the left side of the road, colliding with a snowbank and leaving her vehicle teetering in the air.
Hawkes was injured in the collision, Nichols said, and had to be extricated from the Avalon. Bracy was also injured, although she was able to walk to the ambulance. NorthStar transported both patients from the scene.
None of the students on the bus were injured in the crash, with Pratt saying that two school nurses were able to assist students at the scene and upon their return to KES via a second school bus. The students' parents were also notified. Pratt noted that a number of MSAD 58 staff were on hand due to the crash's proximity to the Kingfield school, and that they assisted at the scene.
"I am thankful that no students were injured and our driver was not injured either," Pratt said.
Poulin's Garage sent two wreckers to the scene to clear vehicles from the roadway, Nichols said. The bus was towed by Collins' Garage, which has a large unit to move bigger vehicles. Pratt described the damage to the bus as "extensive."
Hartley is the lead investigator for the incident.
There was a second, related crash approximately 10 minutes after the initial collision. Five hundred yards to the west on Route 142, a red 2001 Ford Focus had been traveling eastbound. The Focus came upon several vehicles that had stopped because of the initial crash and was unable to stop on the ice. The vehicle rolled over, with first responders finding it on its roof.
The operator, Hanna Snider, 20 of Sorrento, was not injured in the crash. FCSO Chief Deputy Steve Lowell and Deputy Sandy Burke responded, with the assistance of Salem Fire Department. Sanders towed the vehicle from the scene.
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