LEWISTON — The last thing Chris Bonnevie II was expecting on his drive home in the dark on the Maine Turnpike early Monday morning was a nearly head-on collision with a bucket loader.

The bucket of a front-end loader sideswiped the 1993 Pontiac Grand Am the Lewiston man was driving north before 5 a.m. between the New Gloucester barrier toll and the Auburn exit.

Police said the excavation equipment had been commandeered in West Gardiner by two 14-year-old boys and taken on a 35-mile, low-speed joyride that took out a fire hydrant, mailboxes, the Fielder’s Choice ice cream sign in Sabattus, a parked car, street signs, a police car and Bonnevie.

Bonnevie, who had recently moved from Westbrook, had been visiting friends there Sunday night. On his drive north back to Lewiston he saw three police cruisers “absolutely bookin’ it” south on the other side of the median, he said.

Suddenly, “out of nowhere, I see an absolute horde of cruisers clearly trying to get in the way of something” headed south toward him in the northbound lane, he said. That something turned out to be a front-end loader whose bucket was raised and headed directly for him, Bonnevie said.

“All I saw was lights high up in the air and I thought: ‘Oh, boy, this thing is big,'” he said.

“They seemed to deliberately come at me,” he said. “The guardrail was kind of in my way so I couldn’t really go off the road, so I just tried to squeeze through it the best I can so I can maybe not die.” 

“It looks like it worked because, instead, the very edge of the bucket caught right about to my driver’s-side door handle and just tore right through it all the way to the rear driver’s-side rear quarter panel. Almost tore it right off,” he said. “A few inches to the right and that could have been it.”

Bonnevie said he tried to slip past the loader as it bore down on him by swerving into the right breakdown lane between the loader and the guardrail.

“If I’d slowed down and tried to stop or something like that I’d almost certainly have taken it head-on and most likely been killed,” he said.

It is believed that at that point, a Lewiston police officer fired three shots at the construction vehicle’s tires and the loader stopped. Two 14-year-old boys were taken into custody. 

Lewiston police had joined in the pursuit at about 4:50 a.m. to help the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department stop the loader on Sabattus Street as it traveled south at speeds between 8 and 30 mph. Lewiston police said it hit one cruiser during the pursuit.

The chase continued on Lisbon Street, then south on the Maine Turnpike with Lewiston police following. Maine State Police were notified.

According to police, when the vehicle reached New Gloucester, it crossed the median and continued south in the northbound lanes of the turnpike. That’s when Lewiston police cars traveled ahead to try to block the northbound lanes.

Bonnevie’s car wasn’t the only thing damaged Monday by the joyriders.

The sign at Fielder’s Choice, an ice cream stand on Route 126 in Sabattus, was knocked off its moorings, causing roughly $8,000 in damage, Manager Nate Jillson said.

A surveillance camera captured a black-and-white image of the loader passing by the business at about 3:30 a.m. It plowed over an exit sign before ramming the electronic sign advertising the business.

“They caused some damage,” Jillson said. “It’s pretty crazy.”

Last year, burglars had stolen an ATM from the property.

“Bad karma,” Jillson said.

In Sabattus, the loader struck a stop sign on High Street, then a parked car on Elm Street. On Greene Street, the loader damaged mailboxes, street signs and a fire hydrant, Lt. Sheila Wetherbee said.

Once stopped, the two youths were taken to the Lewiston Police Department.

Maine State Police, the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department and the Lewiston Police Department are investigating. The Maine Attorney General’s office will also investigate because a police officer fired a weapon for the purpose of stopping an individual.

Statement by a father of one of the boys

The father of one of the boys arrested for stealing the bucket loader gave this statement to the Sun Journal on Monday night. The boys were not named because they are juveniles.

“I first want to tell you that he should be held to the letter of the law for his punishment. He should not get any special treatment.

“With that said, he has been in and out of residential treatment since 12/31/12. He most currently was in a residential program until today.

“We as a family have done everything we possibly can to help him get the help that he needs. We have met many roadblocks along the way and have been laughed at when we’ve told the police, doctors etc. what he has threatened to do, has written a ‘plan’ to do etc.

“We ask that people don’t judge us as parents and that they know that we 100% agree that he should and will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

“We offer our deepest sympathy to all that were injured.”

 

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