RICHMOND — Police have released the identity of one of the men killed in a wrong-way head-on collision that claimed the lives of two men.

The name of the man driving the pickup truck hit by the SUV was released Monday. He is James Curtis, 39, of Knox. His relatives were notified Sunday night, Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety said Monday.

The man driving the SUV is from Carmel and was driving with a suspended license, but his name was not released because his family has yet to be notified, McCausland said.

“Both drivers were killed instantly,” he said.

Harold Brown, 75, said he feels lucky to be alive.

Brown was driving home to Richmond from Bangor on Interstate 95 Sunday evening when he encountered the SUV.

Brown and his friend Monica Ditzler saw the SUV driving erratically in front of them minutes before they came across it stopped in the middle of the highway.

“I was driving south going about 70 mph and the SUV was in front of us,” Brown said during a telephone interview Monday. “He was in the passing lane when he put his brakes on around mile marker 175. I thought maybe he was reacting to something in the road.”

“We at first thought he had seen something we didn’t — a moose or a hole in the road,” Ditzler said. “He moved over, so we moved over. He moved over again and was going back and forth. Finally I said, ‘He’s either drunk or having a medical emergency or something. He’s driving erratically.’

“That is when, I swear, he bounced off the guardrail on the left side,” she said.

Dust kicked up as the SUV pulled away from the barrier, Brown said.

“I backed off because I was watching for an accident getting ready to happen,” he said.

But at mile marker 172, the two friends came up on the SUV again.

“It was stopped crossways in the road. He just sat there. I pulled into the breakdown lane. A pickup in front of me did the same thing. I called 911. The police asked me to get his plate,” Brown recalled, noting he did not get a good look at the man driving the SUV because of the low light at dusk and his concentration on getting the license plate numbers, which he relayed to police.

Suddenly, the SUV backed up, cut its wheels and turned facing the wrong direction.

“He just took off going the wrong way at a high rate of speed,” Brown said. “I stuck my arm out the window to flag him and let him know, but he went by me quick.”

The man driving the truck stopped beside them also tried in vain to flag the driver down.

“There was nothing anybody could do,” Brown said. “When he turned around, he was hammering it. He was out of sight in no time.”

He was going so fast that when he passed Brown and Ditzler, the driver’s face was a blur, she said.

“Troopers attempted to stop the wayward SUV which was traveling north in the southbound lanes,” McCausland said. “The vehicle failed to stop as a trooper attempted to block its way. Other troopers were in position to set up spike mats when the SUV slammed into Curtis’ pickup truck.”

Brown and his friend sat stunned in their vehicle after the SUV took off going the wrong way. They waited until the Carmel man’s vehicle was out of sight. They knew police were involved. After a few minutes they resumed their journey home.

“We just hoped he didn’t kill someone,” Brown said.

It didn’t turn out as Brown and Ditzler hoped. Within minutes the SUV going the wrong way slammed into a pickup truck, killing both drivers, state police said.

The crash occurred on I-95?s southbound lanes in Hampden at about 7 p.m., state police said. It forced state police to close the highway in that area and reroute traffic at the Coldbrook Road exit, state police and witnesses said.

Upon arriving home in Richmond, Brown went on his computer and saw the Bangor Daily News report that a collision had occurred. Soon, it was confirmed that two men were dead.

“I just thought it’s too bad he had to kill someone besides himself. It was his responsibility he acted that way. There was nothing I could have done,” said Brown, a retired dairy farmer who had been selling a poison ivy remedy at the BDN Maine Garden Show in Bangor over the weekend.

Brown said he has been wondering if he’d been driving his three-quarter ton pickup truck with the plow on it if he might have tried to pull in front of the SUV when it began to turn around.

“I don’t know if I would have reacted fast enough,” Brown said.


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