CANTON — Debbie Ulmer attributes the fact that she is alive to her guardian angel.
The Canton woman's pickup truck was sideswiped three weeks ago by a tractor-trailer and she thanks a good-luck jewelry clip attached to the visor of her dark blue 1999 GMC Sierra.
“It was the weirdest feeling. It felt like my whole truck was lifting up and down as the trailer kept hitting it, like you're part of the movie but you don't want to be there,” she said.
The big-rig driver also nearly took out a house and almost rolled over before regaining control and fleeing the scene at about 3 a.m. on Route 108 in Canton, touching off an investigation by Oxford County Sheriff's deputy Michael Parshall.
“It's an 18-wheeler with blue transfer paint on the right side from (Ulmer's) truck, and it's missing at least its side marker light,” Parshall said early Thursday evening in Newry.
Parshall said he found the tractor-trailer's right side trailer lenses and he carries its clearance light in his cruiser, checking tractor-trailer trucks on and off the road, hoping to find the rig.
“She was lucky she didn't get killed,” he said.
Ulmer, a Sun Journal newspaper carrier, said she was delivering papers at about 3 a.m. She was heading west toward Canton when she put her left turn signal on and headed across the road to deliver a paper to the Jordan home at 449 Turner Street, or Route 108.
She said she never heard a horn or saw headlights, but shortly before she would have put her arm out the window with a paper to put in the Sun Journal tube, the tractor-trailer hit her pickup.
“I went to pull in and he hit me dead center in the road and dragged me over to Mrs. Jordan's lawn,” Ulmer said. “It felt like I was getting hit by a train. ... I saw the mail box go down and he went up on her lawn and I thought the truck was going to tip over onto her house.”
“If I had had my arm out the window, he would have torn that right off and I would have bled to death right there.”
Parshall said the tractor-trailer driver came upon Ulmer's truck in a curve and tried to squeeze past in the opposite lane, likely at 55 mph, which is the posted speed limit.
“It's unknown right now whether she crossed in front of the truck or not. ... She could have been at fault. But right now, I only have one side's story about what happened,” he said.
“He had to go into the other lane on the curve to avoid her. He did brake, and then he hit the mailbox/newspaper box post, went way up on the lawn and corrected back into the opposite lane. She said the trailer was at a 45-degree angle and he almost rolled it.”
The tractor-trailer broke Ulmer's outside mirror. It also tore off a chunk of her window weather visor and jammed it into her dashboard. She had to kick her dented door to get out and thought the trucker was going to stop, because he put his signal on to pull over.
“I can't believe for one minute he wouldn't have known that he hit me, but he kept going and and I felt like that girl in that Titanic movie when she sees the rescue boats going away and yells, 'Come back, come back,' and that's what I was crying, 'Come back, come back,' but he just kept going,” Ulmer said.
Parshall said that 99 percent of the time, truckers will stop if they've hit another vehicle or property.
“It could have been a lot more serious than it was, but the tractor-trailer mostly avoided her,” he said. “But then the driver took off and that's weird. It's not normal,” Parshall said. “He either had a bad log or there was some other reason. Most truck drivers will stop.”
After getting sent out at 3:05 a.m. by Ulmer's 911 call for help, Parshall said he arrived at 3:55 a.m. Canton firefighters also assisted.
Parshall said he checked with trucking dispatchers at the NewPage paper mill in Rumford for any arriving tractor-trailers, but only one checked in before the accident happened.
He also checked with the Big Apple store on Route 108 but none stopped there either, which is why he said he believes the trucker was headed for New Hampshire, Vermont or Canada.
On Thursday, Ulmer decided to seek help from truckers and the public. She said she wants to establish a bank account to collect donations to offer as a reward for anyone who saw anything that could lead to the arrest of the hit-and-run trucker.
Anyone with information about the June 23 accident or location of the tractor-trailer should contact the Oxford County Sheriff's Office at 800-733-1421.
“This guy doesn't belong on the road,” Ulmer said.