Man critical after crash

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SANDY RIVER PLANTATION – A Rangeley man was in critical condition Monday at a Portland hospital after he lost control of his truck late Friday and struck a rock ledge before being ejected onto Route 4 and struck by an oncoming car that swerved to avoid the pickup truck.

Robert J. Gardner, 24, received serious and extensive injuries, including a possible head injury, Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy Kenneth Charles said Monday. He was transported by NorthStar Emergency Services ambulance to Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington before he was flown by a LifeFlight helicopter to Maine Medical Center in Portland.

A passenger in Gardner’s truck, Patricia Kemp, age unknown, of Rangeley was also injured and taken by ambulance to the Farmington hospital and admitted. She was released Sunday, a FMH spokeswoman said Monday.

Gardner was traveling south on the road on a downhill grade. The truck was going too fast and he was unable to negotiate a turn, Charles said.

He overcorrected, which caused the truck to fishtail, and it left the roadway, struck a rock ledge and then began spinning like a top before coming to rest perpendicular on the roadway blocking both lanes, Charles said.

Gardner was ejected from the truck while the vehicle was spinning. He landed on the road about 15 feet from where the truck stopped near the intersection of Raymond Road, Charles said.

A few minutes later, Courtney Ellis of Rangeley was heading north on Route 4, but after cresting a rise in the road, was unable to stop in time to avoid the pickup truck shortly after the initial crash, the deputy said.

Ellis’ car swerved to avoid the truck and struck Gardner, who was lying in the road, Charles said. Ellis’ vehicle came to rest in a snow bank.

It was extremely cold with temperatures 15 to 20 degrees below zero, Charles said.

Ellis, who was not hurt in the crash, called 911 to report the accident.

When first responders arrived on the scene, Kemp wasn’t there, having somehow made it to a residence not too far away. The accident was also called in from there, Charles said. She remembers the details up to when the accident happened but not afterward, he said.

“Excessive speed and alcohol are believed to have contributed to the crash” of Gardner’s truck, Charles said. Tests were conducted and the accident was reconstructed with Maine State Police planning more reconstruction, the deputy said.

The accident remains under investigation, he said.

Charles was assisted by fellow deputies as well as state police, Rangeley police and firefighters and ambulance medics.

The accident scene was blocked off for about four hours with traffic rerouted on to Raymond Road, a circular road with two entrances on Route 4, above and below where the accident happened.

“We’re still trying to piece it together,” Charles said of the accident.

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