NORWAY – An elderly man died Thursday after his wife accidentally ran him over while backing up an all-terrain vehicle in their driveway, authorities said.

William Beyenberg, 75, of 425 Dunn Road, died three hours after being airlifted by helicopter to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston following the 8:30 a.m. accident, said Mark Latti, spokesman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Marilyn Beyenberg, 74, was injured, and was admitted to Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway, where a spokesperson said she was in stable condition.

Because of her distraught state, Game Warden investigator Neal Wykes has not been able to talk to Marilyn Beyenberg, Latti said.

Latti said Marilyn Beyenberg apparently didn’t realize her husband was standing behind her as she was backing up the 2001, six-wheeled John Deere ATV in a gravel turnaround area in front of their two-car garage.

Once she saw him, she missed the brake and instead hit the accelerator, backing over him, Latti said. The ATV, more of a work vehicle than an off-road vehicle, weighs more than 1,000 pounds, and continued into some trees, throwing Marilyn Beyenberg to the ground, Latti said. The trees were bent over, indicating she struck them hard with the back of the ATV, he said.

Latti said he didn’t know how experienced Marilyn Beyenberg was in operating the ATV, which had levers for forward, neutral and reverse in between two split seats. The throttle and brakes are operated by foot pedals, instead of the hand throttle and hand brakes common to recreational ATVs, he said. There were chain saws in a bed behind the seats, indicating the vehicle was being used for work purposes.

“This is a unique accident, both in the circumstances and the type of ATV it is,” said Latti. Most ATV accidents involve recreational versions of the vehicle, he said.

Wykes will continue to reconstruct the accident and report the findings to Lt. Nat Berry, Latti said. Mechanical problems with the ATV have not been ruled out as a possible cause, he added.

Of the four other ATV-related deaths in Maine this year, two have also involved ATVs in driveways. On July 26, a 32-year-old Dexter man died when his ATV overturned while he was trying to turn it around in a driveway. On March 28, a 27-year-old Sangerville man died when he hit a bump in a driveway and was sent into a ditch on the other side.

ATV use in Maine has grown from 26,000 registrations in 1984 to over 55,000 last year, “and with that growth has come an increase in the number of accidents,” Latti said. Non-fatal accidents have risen each year since ATVs were introduced in 1984, to 322 accidents last year.

Latti said the Beyenbergs had registered their ATV, which, although not required, allowed them to use it both on and off their property.

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