LEWISTON — A Dixfield girl flown by medical helicopter to Central Maine Medical Center following a Saturday night car crash in Peru died from her injuries Sunday afternoon.
Sgt. Matthew Baker of the Oxford County Sheriff's Office said Danielle "Dani" Ranger, 16, had to be extricated after crashing her car into a tree on Ridge Road about 8:20 p.m. Saturday. No one else was injured in the crash. The accident remained under investigation Sunday night.
Meanwhile, members of volunteer fire companies throughout the tight-knit community struggle to come to terms with the loss of one of their own. Ranger served as a junior firefighter for the Dixfield Fire Company and was a member of the Western Foothills Junior Firefighter Program.
Friends and family described the Dirigo High School junior as one who lived life to the fullest, determined to conquer her fears first and the world shortly thereafter.
"She wanted everything she had her fingers on to succeed," Capt. Jason Hyde of the Dixfield Fire Company, Ranger's mentor and cousin, said. "Dani always said she loved being part of this department, but she made us all better as a group."
Hyde said members of his department, as well as surrounding fire departments, were shocked by the news of Saturday's crash. Several firefighters joined Ranger's family and friends Saturday night at CMMC.
Hyde said Ranger played field hockey at Dirigo High School in the fall and was looking forward to being able to return to training at the department following the season. She was scheduled to assist with presentations at local schools and day care centers during the department's upcoming fire prevention week.
Hyde said Ranger was instrumental in helping with the development of the Western Foothills Junior Firefighter Program. She even pushed for a grade requirement for the program similar to the one the school has for its athletes.
"She was destined to be a very good leader," Dixfield fire Chief Scott Dennett said. "She wasn't afraid to take on a challenge."
Dennett said he heard about the crash Saturday night, but did not find out that it was one of his own until Sunday morning. As a junior firefighter, Dennett said Ranger was allowed to assist at fires but was not allowed to physically battle the blaze.
But he said there was no doubt in his mind she would one day overcome that challenge, too. It was just a matter of turning the right age.
Hyde said that his young cousin and protege was the type of teen who wasn't afraid to push herself beyond her comfort zone. He laughed at how she overcame her fear of heights by making the first ladder climb during training to about 35 feet — only to turn around and double the height during her second ladder climb.
"The next thing you know, she was out back throwing ladders up against the house to practice," Hyde said. "I'm really going to miss her. She was my cousin, my family, my friend and my fellow firefighter."