RUMFORD — A Salem man heading home from Bethel, lost control and rolled his 1993 Jeep Cherokee on Thursday night after crossing the South Rumford Road bridge over the Androscoggin River, police said.

Investigating Patrolman Ian Theriault said at the scene that a safety belt prevented Thomas Bassford, 65, from being ejected and suffering serious injuries in the 8:45 p.m. accident.

“I just come across from Bethel on Route 2 and the roads were fine,” said an uninjured but shaken up Bassford while shivering in below-freezing winds. “I should have stayed on Route 2.”

At Cpl. Douglas Maifeld’s suggestion, he then got inside the police sport-utility vehicle to warm up.

Bassford said he that as he rounded a curve just off the bridge, he felt the Jeep’s rear end slide on slush toward the opposite lane.

The passenger-side front end then struck a guardrail covered by plowed snow, which rolled the Jeep onto its roof blocking south-bound traffic.

Bassford said that despite being upside down, he unbuckled himself and crawled out the shattered driver’s window to await police and Med-Care Ambulance.

“I wasn’t going that fast,” he added.

Theriault said the Jeep was totaled.

Rumford firefighters and Oxford County Sheriff’s Deputy George Cayer shut traffic down on the road for about an hour before the firefighters were called away to a possible fire at 149 Maine Ave. in Rumford.

But the fire call, which also drew Mexico firefighters, Med-Care and Theriault, turned out to be a furnace malfunction that required some venting of smoke from the building, fire Deputy Chief Ben Byam said afterward.

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Thomas Bassford, 65, of Salem, escaped injury on Thursday night after losing control of his 1993 Jeep Cherokee in slush coming off the South Rumford Road bridge over the Androscoggin River, police said. Police shut down traffic on the road for about an hour.

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