DURHAM — An 18-year-old college student from Durham is believed to have been killed Friday in a fiery crash.
A combination of speed and driver distraction likely caused Maxwell Allen to swerve on Quaker Meeting House Road, about a half-mile south of Route 136, State Police Trooper Tyler Stevenson said. Allen's 1999 Dodge Stratus veered into the oncoming lane and swerved back to the right, where it crossed the road and struck a power pole.
The force split that pole and two others.
By the time police reached the scene, shortly after the 8:20 p.m. emergency call, the car was engulfed in flames. The extraordinary damage to the vehicle left several questions a day later, including the certain identity of the victim, Stevenson said.
"The investigation is leading us to believe (it was) Allen (who) was killed," Stevenson said. There were no passengers.
News of the tragedy moved quickly among Allen's friends, including many teens who belonged to the youth ministry at the Pathway Vineyard Church in Lewiston.
Less than two hours after the crash, youth leader Kyle Gabri was notified.
"It was shocking," Gabri said. About the same time he was told, leaders from the church reached out to Maxwell's parents, John and Jill, and his older brother, John Jr.
"As a congregation, we stand 100 percent behind each other," Gabri said.
By Saturday afternoon, at least 30 teens had gathered at the Foss Road church for a prayer session.
"We wanted to give the teens a chance to mourn and talk," Gabri said. Reactions ran from hysterical to stoic as the youths dealt with the death of someone they knew.
Maxwell was known as a person who had a dry sense of humor that he shared freely. He even performed a stand-up routine at religious retreats.
"He was very, very funny," Gabri said. "He was really loving and really honest."
During the week, he studied media at Southern Maine Community College. On nights and weekends, he was taking on more work for the youth ministry. He often ran sound equipment during youth meetings and had designed a flier for an upcoming Christmas show.
"We were giving him more leadership opportunities," Gabri said. His hope was to become a leader within the group.
Gabri and the teenagers found solace in their faith, he said.
"We believe that when you die you go to a better place," he said. "He's with the Lord at this point."