Man who was helping friends killed while walking on Route 26

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Rescue personnel investigate the scene where a pedestrian was killed near 194 Maine St. in Poland on Wednesday morning. 

A Maine State Police trooper takes photographs of the Toyota SUV that was involved in a fatal pedestrian accident near 194 Maine St. in Poland on Wednesday morning. Police said a preliminary investigation indicates the driver of the vehicle may have fallen asleep while driving home from work in Portland.

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POLAND — A man hit and killed by a vehicle while walking on Route 26 on Wednesday morning “had the biggest heart,” a friend said.

Richard Knox, 47, was hit by a Toyota SUV heading north shortly after 7:30 a.m., Poland Deputy Fire Chief Tom Printup said. Knox died from his injuries at the scene.

Police said Grace Sleeper, 52, of Oxford, was heading home from Portland when her SUV struck Knox. Authorities say a preliminary investigation indicates she may have fallen asleep at the wheel while driving home after working all night. 

Sleeper was taken to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston with injuries that were not life-threatening. 

The Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the incident. Maine State Police are conducting the accident reconstruction, required for all fatal accidents.

According to police, Knox lived in the Kennebunk-Biddeford area and had been staying for the past few weeks with friends Mark Grose and Cindy Stone, helping them fix up a home that would be put up for rent.

Grose said Knox had been walking to the nearby Dunkin’ Donuts when he was struck and killed.

“He had the biggest heart,” Grose said. “He was the kind of guy who would give you the last penny he had if you needed it. Every time I needed help with something, he was right there. Everybody loved him. He was just such a good guy.”

Grose said Knox would send him a text every day to say good morning and then another to say goodnight.

“Every morning he’d text me: ‘How are you feeling? How is your day?'” Grose said. “I didn’t get one of those texts this morning.”

Grose said he was away for dialysis Wednesday morning when he saw news about the crash on television.

“I saw a picture of our mailbox,” he said. “I thought, ‘Oh, no.'”

A short time later, Grose said, Knox’s mother called to relate that she had been notified of the accident. That’s how Grose found out that his friend of 20 years was gone.

According to Stone, Knox was staying to help them with a variety of projects. All he asked for in return was a grilled hamburger or two.

She said that after moving in, Knox commented about the speed at which traffic moved on Route 26 in front of the home.

“He said, ‘They really fly out here, don’t they?'” Stone recalled.

Knox was struck on the east side of the roadway just north of Starry Night Drive and carried about 100 feet to the driveway at 194 Maine St., two properties from where he was staying.

Authorities said the SUV launched into the air when it hit the side of the driveway, clearing a utility pole, mailbox and fence. The vehicle landed in the woods about 70 feet from the driveway, damaging the front end and smashing the windshield. The vehicle’s air bag deployed.

Police closed Route 26 from the New Gloucester line to Route 122 but opened one northbound lane and both southbound lanes by midmorning. By noon, all Route 26 lanes were open.

Dawn Cyr, who lives at 194 Maine St., said she was alerted to the commotion Wednesday morning when her dogs started barking. In the past year and a half, two cars have gone off the road at that spot, she said.

Representatives of Maine’s Department of Transportation were at the scene, as was the Poland Fire Department.

A few hours before sundown Wednesday, Grose said he was going to grill a hamburger and take it to the scene of the crash in honor of his friend’s appetite.

“It’s just so hard to believe that he’s gone,” Grose said.

Police briefly closed Route 26 while they moved the body of the pedestrian who was struck by a vehicle in Poland on Wednesday. 

Employees from Lambchops Auto Repair & Wrecker Service load the Toyota SUV that was involved in a fatal pedestrian accident onto a flatbed trailer on Wednesday morning. 

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