Family mourns daughter who died after car drove into ocean

Brian Feulner/Bangor Daily News

David Moyer and Debbie Moyer, parents Melissa Moyer place memorials and draw chalk writings in memory of Moyer and Amy Stiner who died after apparently becoming disoriented in the fog and driving off a boat ramp on Schoppee Point Road in Roque Bluffs Tuesday night.

ROQUE BLUFFS — The peacefulness of the “quietest place in the world” was broken Thursday by the gentle sobs of family members grieving for a Pennsylvania woman who died after the car she was traveling in went off a boat ramp into the ocean.

Relatives mourning the death of Melissa Moyer, 38, of Sunbury, Pa., gathered on the stone breakwater adjacent to the ramp to create a makeshift memorial under breezy, partly cloudy skies around 1 p.m.

Moyer and a friend from Machias, Amy Stiner, 37, who was pregnant, apparently drowned when the 2001 Dodge Caravan that Stiner was driving went off the the end of Schoppee Point Road directly down the boat ramp on a foggy, rainy Tuesday night. Their bodies were later recovered from the minivan when it was pulled from the water. The two women had been hiking earlier near Roque Bluffs State Park.

Moyer’s father, David Moyer, and his wife, Debby, placed a bouquet of flowers and a small white cross on the breakwater next to the message, “We love you,” that had already been written in chalk by another woman.

David Moyer knelt to tie a pink ribbon around the cross. At times he was overcome with emotion, choking back sobs quietly as his wife put a hand on his shoulder.

At one point, his wife Debby wrote in chalk elsewhere on the breakwater, “We miss both of you.”

“It’s going to be tough,” said Herb Beck, Moyer’s grandfather, speaking with difficulty as he talked to BDN photographer Brian Feulner. Beck and other family members had traveled to Maine from the Sunbury, Pa., area.

“Every time I [saw] her, she called me pop-pop. She’d give me a big hug,” Beck said.

At the end of the breakwater, Moyer’s 13-year-old son, Alex Reichner, assembled another memorial: a plastic sunflower, an American flag pinwheel and more words in chalk. Reichner, who was visiting the area with his mother, was not with the two women at the time of the accident. Family members expressed thankfulness that he had not accompanied them.

Colleen Libby, who lives in a vacation home nearby during the summer, talked to Feulner about the community and the tragedy.

“It was just a nice quiet night,” said Libby. “Very foggy. We had a lot of fog that night.” She heard the sirens blaring from law enforcement and rescue vehicles racing to the scene. “And knew something was not right at all because this is the quietest place in the world, really,” she said.

“Most people know that this is a dead-end road … they drive slowly,” said Libby. “It’s a road you walk on.”

Stiner and Moyer apparently were disoriented in the fog, unaware they were driving in the direction of the boat ramp, rather than back toward Stiner’s home in Machias. The road empties directly onto the ramp. The last section of the road approaching the ramp is narrow, with thick trees on either side, although there are open parking areas on both sides immediately before.

Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith said Wednesday that the vehicle probably entered the water before Stiner realized what was about to occur and could apply the brakes. She made a desperate 911 call from inside the minivan after it was in the water.

Asked if she had any words of comfort to offer the families, Libby said, “It’s a wonderful place to come. It’s so peaceful … To the family, I would just say, I am so, so sorry. … Our hearts go out to you and our prayers. … Sorry this had to happen in such a beautiful place.”

It is not the first time such an accident has occurred at the site, according to Ricky Alexander, a Rhode Island resident who formerly lived in Washington County. Alexander contacted the Bangor Daily News via e-mail from the Gulf of Mexico after he received news of the fatal accident and recalled a similar experience that he and some friends endured in the late summer of 2005.

“It was late and I was driving some buddies out to the pier to hang out for a while,” wrote Alexander. “I didn’t know the road very well, then all of a sudden SPLASH! Window deep in water. All of our cell phones were immediately ruined and we were soaking wet and cold, so we actually walked about two miles back towards town until someone finally picked us up. ”

The tide “swallowed my car,” added Alexander.

“When I returned to the site in the daylight,” he wrote, “there was a sign, about 40-50 (feet) from the ramp that reads ‘Road ends in water.’ However, that sign is hidden by overgrown bushes. The town should really mark that better.”

Lt. Travis Willey of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department said Thursday that this week’s accident remains under investigation. He said he does not know exactly how the Caravan’s electrical system reacted when the vehicle went into the water, but that it had both power locks and power windows.

Power systems can short out in cars that run into deep-enough water, making them inoperable, according to Willey. Some modern vehicles have doors that automatically lock when they are put into gear and that cannot be unlocked as long as the vehicle is in gear, he said, though he does not know if this is the case with the Caravan involved in Tuesday’s accident.

Even in submerged or partially submerged vehicles that have unlocked doors, he said, it can be difficult to push the doors open against the pressure of the surrounding water. As a result, in a submerged car that does not have manual hand cranks for its windows, he added, breaking a window may be the only way to get out.

There are hammer-like tools made specifically for this purpose that can be purchased at auto supply stores, the lieutenant said. People who drive vehicles with power windows near bodies of water should consider how they would get out if they become submerged.

“I would encourage people to take a second look at that,” Willey said. “People should be prepared to [break their car windows].”

Willey said there is a sign at the site that is meant to make motorists aware they are approaching the end of the road. The sign simply says “pavement ends,” however, and is obscured from view by vegetation.

Willey said he did not know how long the ramp has been at the end of Schoppee Point Road or how the end of the road and the abutting shoreline were configured prior to the ramp being built. He directed questions about the ramp to Roque Bluffs town officials.

Carla Wood, town clerk for Roque Bluffs, declined Thursday to comment about Tuesday’s accident and directed questions about the ramp and signage to selectmen. Attempts to contact selectmen on Thursday were unsuccessful.

Similar accidents have occurred in Maine at other boat ramps or places where roads end without barriers at the water’s edge.

In September 2011, a 48-year-old woman from Florida was found dead in a submerged rental car in Frenchman Bay off Lamoine Beach after she apparently drove off the end of Route 184 and into the water. Maine State Police said at the time that she had left a family wedding reception the night before to return to her hotel in Hancock but drove the 2012 Ford Focus in the wrong direction. She was not familiar with the area of the crash where the paved road ends at the ocean’s edge, police said.

The incident was reported to police the next morning after a passerby saw the roof of the rental car protruding from the water.

At the same place in March 2010, two women made it safely to shore after a 1998 Subaru Legacy wagon that they were riding in went into the water. Police later charged the driver of the car with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicants.

In November 2010, an older couple was found dead in a sport-utility vehicle that was submerged off a boat ramp in Seal Cove on Mount Desert Island. The sunken Chevrolet Equinox was discovered in the water the morning of Nov. 23, 2010, by marine contractors who were heading out to move moorings in Blue Hill Bay.

It is not known what caused the couple, who lived nearby, to drive into the water. The ramp in Seal Cove is not located directly at the end of a straight section of road, as is the ramp in Roque Bluffs or the beach in Lamoine. The couple turned off Cape Road and drove onto the pier and then the ramp at the end of the pier, but what kind of visibility conditions there were at the time and whether they knew they were driving toward the ramp is not clear.

In December 2009, the body of a Bangor man was found in a Ford Escort in Pushaw Lake in Orono, about 50 yards from shore near Gould’s Landing. Details about how the vehicle ended up in the water were not publicized.

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Comments

Kim Waite's picture

The town needs to install

a solar sign alerting drivers that the road ends in water, so in severe weather (fog/rain/snow) it can be seen! Or install an electric sign. If the boat launch is all that is down there, maybe that section could be gated off during the dark hours to prevent people from driving down there to their death? Jesus.

Something truly needs to be done because these women and the dog died a horrible death! My heart aches for these families.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Someone dropped the ball...........

The State of Maine is a tourist State. We enjoy the many visitors we get, we welcome them. With that influx of tourists every year, comes a responsibility to make thing safe for them. Safety for them is a whole different ballgame, extra precautions need to be taken.
What a lot of people take for granted is that not everyone is as familiar with a particular place as they are. Signs are very important to both safe operation of a vehicle, or safely getting to your destination in unfamiliar areas. Signs that are hidden by branches and other debris, don't work for anyone. This problem occurs because locals are so used to a particulate spot, they fail to notice vegetation, garage sale signs, or any other clutter blocking a safety sign (Stop sign, Pavement ends) etc.
The fact that it's a boat launch, is not a reason for not having a solid barrier across the road to ensure that signs are read. I know locals will say that this idea isn't needed, that's my point.
As a former truck driver, the sign " Pavement Ends 500ft." hold a special spot in my heart. If your driving an empty tractor trailer down the Pennsylvania Turnpike, at 3am, and you see that sign. You have to slow down NOW. Hitting even a small bump at highway speeds, is a ride no amusement park can possibly beat. Those signs need to be visible to be affective. In the case of a road coming to an end, humans can't be counted on to always be attentive. Barriers need to physically block off a dead end road into water, what harm could this possibly cause?????????????????

Noel Foss's picture

If anybody dropped the ball, it was the lady driving.

1) The speed limit on that road is (if I remember correctly) 20mph. If she was going fast enough that she didn't realize the was heading down the boat ramp until it was too late then she was driving way too fast. If it was foggy and she couldn't see, then she was again driving too fast.
2) She's a local, so one would think that she'd know the road, know the park, and know that there was a boat launch at one end of it. However, the fact that she apparently got lost twice in one day (once in the park and once on the road) should be a red flag. And if by some chance she didn't know the road she was driving on, shouldn't she have been driving slower?
3 After driving into the water, they had time to find and dial a cell phone and make a 911 call before the car sank, but didn't have time to roll down a window or unlock the doors? I understand that water pressure can be a problem for doors that open out, but every minivan I've ever seen has at least ONE door that slides back like a barn door.

Additionally, blocking off the road isn't a viable option. It is, after all, a boat launch. One used by the entire town. Putting a road block on the end of the road will certainly keep people from driving off the end of it, but that will include the ones who are doing it on purpose.

While I agree that any signs need to be kept properly cleared, blame shouldn't be placed solely with the town for this accident having happened. Some personal responsibility has to be considered as well.

Kim Waite's picture

You're blaming the woman driver?

Seriously? THERE WAS THICK FOG THAT NIGHT. Have you ever driven in it? Sometimes you can't even see the white line on the side of the road that alerts you to where the side of the road is!

Noel Foss's picture

I'm blaming the driver.

The fact that she's a woman doesn't matter. Male drivers do stupid things all the time too.
If the fog really was as thick as you claim (which, by the way, I HAVE driven in before), then that's all the more reason to Slow. Down.
Especially if you don't know the road (which she apparently did not).

You don't end up 175 feet off the boat launch if you're doing 10 mph and trying to see where you're going.

Kim Waite's picture

Sure, speed was a factor....

....but if it was a clear night she would have most likely turned before going down the road that led to the boat landing and to her, her friend, and the dog's death.

The families may be reading these comments and having you here blaming the driver is disgusting.

Noel Foss's picture

So because she has surviving relatives she's less culpable?

I'll have to keep that in mind next time I see somebody who gets into an accident driving drunk, or wrecks their motorcycle without any gear.
While it's certainly tragic that this happened at all, and I've got nothing but sympathy for her surviving family, that doesn't change that it appears to have happened as a result of negligence.
Perhaps I seem unsympathetic and 'disgusting' to you, but I've lost friends and relatives to negligent driving, and don't have much tolerance for it as a result. To me, the more disgusting fact is that a series of poor decisions may have led to the deaths of two (or three, depending on your beliefs) people and a pet.

Kim Waite's picture

Sorry you're so sick of people

....negligently killing themselves! Your life must be a wreck reading all these articles online, huh!

These two women and the dog had JUST been rescued from a hiking trail. Do you think maybe they were rattled from the experience and then thick fog may have contributed?

Oh wait. You're sick of these kinds of people killing themselves. Nevermind! You don't want to hear anything besides negligent self-homicide!

Noel Foss's picture

Killing themselves, and killing other people.

I see any incident like this as a waste.
I never said my life was a wreck, and I never said that the loved ones I'd lost were because of their OWN negligent driving, did I?

Keep in mind that the woman who was driving wasn't the only victim here; what appears to have been her poor decision to drive too fast for the conditions killed her friend, and her friend's unborn child. So I ask you again: Because she has surviving relatives, she's supposed to be less culpable? I don't think so. I'm sure she didn't make the conscious decision "I'm going to drive too fast in the wrong direction and see what happens" just so that she could kill herself and her friend. But it still happened.

For somebody who's insisting I be more tolerant, you certainly don't have much tolerance for other people's viewpoint on the matter.

Noel Foss's picture

I believe we're done here.

If you're just going to continue to be insulting I'm not going to bother with you.
Have a pleasant day.

Kim Waite's picture

Oh yes...

...this coming from the guy who has insulted the families of the deceased on this page more than once! Scram....

Kim Waite's picture

And your insults of the family and me continue!

The reason why I'm single is because Maine is filled with misogynist bigoted hateful men such as yourself. Why would a woman want to settle down with such filth? Only white trash would!

Noel Foss's picture

Yawn.

More vitriol? Such a surprise.
You assumed that I was making a sexist, bigoted remark, when in fact I never did anything of the sort ("Blame the WOMAN driver" was your statement, not mine). I'm assuming this is where your accusations of misogyny are coming from as well?

You accuse me of being hateful, but you're the one who started with personal attacks. In fact, I haven't seen anything from you on this thread OTHER than personal attacks against me (and now, my girlfriend, who you assume must be "white trash" since she's settled down with me).

Perhaps you should consider the possibility that YOU are the sexist, bigoted, and hateful person. "We see in others that which we hate in ourselves" and all that...

But, regardless, I suppose I'm done having this conversation.
Be seeing you...

Kim Waite's picture

"We see in others that which we hate in ourselves"

Really? Then that must mean you're an incompetent driver who drowns friends and a dog because you're callous. Right? I mean, really, Mr. Insensitive Who Can't See He Started This Whole Argument, could you be stupider or does it just come naturally to you?

"Be seeing you...."

I don't know you. You come onto my property or step one foot in my house without an invite you're gonna wished you hadn't.

Noel Foss's picture

That's true, you don't know me.

I'd say "Thank God" except that maybe you'd be more polite if I wasn't a faceless name on the internet. Doubtful, but I guess it's always a possibility.
I was referencing seeing you on here. I'm assuming you're the sort to hold a grudge about slights both real and imagined, so I'm sure you'll be making insulting comments on more of my posts in the future.
You don't need to worry about a surprise visit; I've got better things to do with my time than drive to West Paris just to visit somebody as pleasant as yourself. Like drowning puppies, or shooting butterflies with my pellet gun. Or maybe digging through a rock face with a sewing needle.

But, as is par for the course, you've managed to misunderstand my statement in the most incorrect way possible. Congrats!

Kim Waite's picture

You know what I would love?

I would love for all men like you to drive your car off a boat ramp into the ocean. Would make the earth a nicer place to live with all of you gone!

Noel Foss's picture

Who's insulting the families of the deceased now, Kim?

Using their tragedy for the sake of a cheap put-down?
And only the Men? Thanks for proving my point about your being the sexist one in this conversation.

Kim Waite's picture

Yes, all men LIKE YOU

need to drive your car off a boat ramp. Label me what you want but I'm just looking out for the sanctity of the nation by proposing this.

Kim Waite's picture

Twisting things around on here

to make yourself feel better? You attacked the women in the vehicle, blamed them for their deaths, and deserved to be nailed to the wall.

Say what you want, loser, but if your girlfriend loves you because you have a run down trailer, a 4-wheeler, half your teeth, and because you're a hateful person.....she can have you and the world thanks her for taking you out of the gene pool! LOL

There are friends of these women who died online writing comments on other online newspapers and I'm sure if they read this thread of comments, they will be happy someone went after the likes of you.

Pppplllllllllllllllllllbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

The road can still be blocked.........

I agree, the driver is somewhat at fault, I'm sure she was confused, as she just experienced a harrowing afternoon hike. That being said, if there were some sort of barrier across the road, Even if she drove into it, she would likely be alive today. I'm no stranger to boat launches, I use them often, they could block the roads and still have full use of the boat launch. Unfortunately, humans are just that, humans. Sometimes we need a little more than a partially obscured sign to keep us alive. Even under the best of conditions........

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