AUBURN — A Sabattus man was injured Tuesday morning when his Chevrolet pickup drifted across Route 4 north of Lake Auburn and into an oncoming tractor-trailer.

Pickup driver Gerard Grondin, 85, of 372 Lisbon Road, Sabattus, was taken by ambulance to Central Maine Medical Center. He was being kept overnight at the hospital for observastion, Auburn police chief Phil Crowell said Tuesday evening .

The tracker-trailer driver lost control and crashed into a house, spilling diesel fuel within sight of the lake’s shore.

Auburn police and fire crews closed the road in both directions for six hours Wednesday while work crews spread sand and absorbent padding to clean up the diesel.

According to witnesses, Grondin was traveling south on Route 4 at about 9:45 a.m. and had just passed Lake Shore Drive when he began drifting into the northbound lanes.

Ashley LaGrange, 20, of Winter St. in Auburn, was headed north when she saw Grondin’s truck drift into her lane.

“I slowed down, because I thought he’d correct himself,” she said. “But he didn’t. He just kept right on coming.”

Grondin’s truck passed in front of LaGrange’s car and ran directly into a tractor-trailer, driven by Kenneth Huotari of Temple. Huotari was traveling north in the right-hand lane.

LaGrange said the impact sent Grondin’s truck bouncing into her Mazda 626 and forced her into the southbound lanes.

“But I was lucky, because nobody else was coming,” she said. Her car came to rest on the side of the road. It was damaged, but she was unhurt.

Huotari said Grondin’s car hit the front driver side of his tractor-trailer, forcing him across both the northbound left lane and two lanes of southbound traffic and into a house at 2834 Turner Road, also known as Route 4.

Mary Card, owner of that house, said she had just left to visit her mother on Lake Shore Drive.

“I heard the crash and saw the smoke,” she said. “It looked like it was coming from my house, so I walked over to see.”

The house was empty at the time. Huotari’s tractor-trailer hit the south end of the house, running into her kitchen. The crash demolished a corner of the house, leaving a gaping hole, and damaged the foundation.

Card and her husband were preparing to spend the night at their son’s house in Lewiston on Tuesday evening. They spent the afternoon putting tools and clothes from the house into Matt’s truck to take with them.

“Probably that’ll be it for now,” she said. “I don’t know how safe the house is,”

Firefighters used extrication equipment to pull Grondin from his demolished truck.

Crews worked all afternoon to clean up about 120 gallons of diesel that leaked from Huotari’s fuel tank, backing up traffic on either side and detouring it around Lake Auburn.

The diesel had poured into the foundation of the house and out a drainage pipe leading toward the lake, the Twin Cities’ water source, about 150 feet behind the house.

Some fuel got as close as 25 feet from the lake shore, said John Luongo, an oil and hazardous materials specialist for the state. But a berm and absorbent padding stopped the fuel from reaching the water, he said, adding that his crew set up floating booms in the lake at the end of the drainage ditch as an extra precaution.

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Staff writer Andrew Cullen contributed to this report.


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