RUMFORD – Police on Wednesday continued to seek the driver of a red 1995 Pontiac Sunfire who drove through a construction barrier late Saturday night on Washington Street and plunged about 10 feet into a gaping hole that swallowed the car.

“It was like a grave for a car,” investigating Sgt. James Bernard said late Wednesday afternoon of the huge hole that was excavated for a road maintenance project.

A passenger who had been celebrating his birthday, Shawn E. Gardner, 35, of Washington Street, suffered injuries to his hands and face, but got out of the wrecked car and climbed out of the hole on his own, according to Bernard’s report.

“He was in pretty rough shape when we got there. There was a lot of blood,” Bernard said.

Med-Care Ambulance took Gardner to Rumford Hospital, then he was then flown to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.

The accident happened about 10:20 p.m. on the section of Washington Street that is near Oxford Avenue.

Bernard said alcohol was involved in the crash.

His crash report noted that Gardner was intoxicated, and he and the driver had been at several bars celebrating Gardner’s birthday.

At least two people were in the front seat based on bloodstains found on air bags on the driver’s and passenger’s sides. Both deployed when the front of the car slammed into the far end of the hole.

Based on witness reports, shortly before the accident the Pontiac was seen traveling west up Lincoln Avenue at high speed, before it turned left onto Washington Street, parts of which have been excavated for Rumford Water District work, Bernard said.

Although there are no street lights on Washington Street, Bernard said a construction crew had placed orange construction barrels around the excavated hole and spanned the barrels with yellow caution tape.

“It was a pretty strange crash for a 25 mph area. When we got the call,” Bernard said, “I knew it was serious, because (the 911 dispatcher) said there was personal injuries and air bag deployment. So when I arrived, immediately I’m looking for the tail end of a car sticking out of a ditch or driveway, and there wasn’t anything around. It was kind of a shock to see the whole car in the hole,” Bernard said.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.