RUMFORD — A seriously injured Milton Township man was airlifted to a Lewiston hospital Saturday morning after the sport utility vehicle he was driving rolled over into woods off Route 232, police said.
John Webb, 55, suffered injuries to his upper body, Rumford police Sgt. James Bernard said on scene. Webb was taken by LifeFlight to Central Maine Medical Center.
“Nothing was life-threatening,” Bernard said. “He’s expected to live.”
A nursing supervisor said Webb was in stable condition.
Webb’s 50-pound black Labrador retriever, however, was in critical condition and not expected to live, Bernard said. At 9:14 a.m., firefighters carefully carried the dog on a stretcher to animal control officer Sue Milligan’s vehicle.
Bernard said Milligan was taking the canine to the Bethel Animal Hospital, because she believed its spine was broken and it would likely have to be euthanized.
But Milligan got the shock of her life later Saturday afternoon when she got a call from the Animal Emergency Clinic of Mid-Maine in Lewiston, where she had taken the dog after it was stabilized and given pain medication in Bethel.
“They didn’t euthanize her!” Milligan said. “They did X-rays and she had no broken bones! She’s still not walking, but she’s moving her hind legs and feet. I was shocked. I was absolutely shocked.”
The retriever, which was still trying to sit up, will be kept overnight in Lewiston and released to a family member Sunday, she said.
Milligan said she tried to contact Webb’s family after taking the dog to the Lewiston clinic but was unsuccessful, so she went to CMMC to get permission from Webb for the clinic to treat her.
“He said he has her because she belonged to a friend who died last year and he wanted (Webb) to have her,” Milligan said. “So John was just devastated when he learned of her condition. He told me, ‘I absolutely can’t lose that dog.'”
Milligan said when she checked the dog at the accident scene, she felt a bump on her spine and believed it was broken because the dog couldn’t move its hind legs or feet.
“She was very cold and in shock, but they got some pain meds into her and evidently, warming her up brought her around,” Milligan said.
Bernard said the accident happened at about 7:21 a.m. as Webb was driving north. The red 1998 Ford Explorer veered off the road after rounding a corner. Several feet of skidmarks on the pavement showed its path going into the woods.
“He said he thinks he fell asleep,” Bernard said of Webb.
A witness told Bernard that Webb started losing control of the Ford on the curve and may have gotten off onto the shoulder before rolling over.
Webb ended up in the rear of the SUV, which came to rest on its side. The impact may have thrown him back there or he crawled, but his legs were pinned, he said.
“Due to injuries to his upper body, he wasn’t able to get himself out,” Bernard said.
It took Rumford firefighters 15 to 20 minutes to extricate Webb. LifeFlight landed at 8:07 a.m., picked up Webb and took off for Lewiston, Bernard said.
Traffic was halted at 8:30 a.m. so Brad Adley, owner of Adley’s Auto in Rumford, and his son, David, could work together with cables from two towing trucks to pull the mangled wreckage free from the woods. Firefighters had to cut down a few softwood trees.
Two-way traffic resumed at 9:15 a.m.