WINDSOR – A three-car crash Thursday that left one man dead and four people injured ended a weaving, high-speed drive up Route 17 in which a teenage passenger tried to take control of the car from the driver, witnesses said.
The driver, identified by police late Thursday as Madison Martin, 28, of Augusta, died at the scene.
The initial investigation showed that drugs, erratic driving and speed were factors in the accident, said Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty.
He said witnesses’ reports indicate the driver had “a complete disregard for public safety.”
“This was an unnecessary, tragic loss of life,” Liberty said.
Martin’s passenger, a 17-year-old Chelsea girl whose identity was not made public, was taken by LifeFlight helicopter to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston with life-threatening injuries.
A Whitefield couple, Richard Newcombe, 63, who was driving, and his wife, Peggy Newcombe, 62, remained hospitalized Thursday night.
Richard Newcombe was treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Peggy Newcombe was initially taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta before being transferred to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where she was listed in satisfactory condition Thursday night.
The third driver, James Tasse, 49, of Cape Elizabeth, was taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center for non-life-threatening injuries.
The crash occurred around 10:30 a.m. Martin, speeding east on Route 17 in a Buick Reatta, came up behind Tasse’s Toyota Sienna van, which witnesses said was going at the 55 mph speed limit.
The Reatta, a sedan, hit the van from behind and pushed it across the oncoming lane, where it went up an embankment and rolled over.
Witnesses said the Raetta then hit the Newcombes’ westbound Toyota Highlander head-on, spinning both vehicles.
Jim Rogers of Chelsea said he was talking to police on his cellphone and trying to get the car’s license plate number as he followed Martin.
Rogers said he gave chase after the Buick nearly hit his pickup truck as he drove east on Route 17.
Rogers said he saw the passenger repeatedly hit Martin and grab the steering wheel in an effort to control the car.
“She was actually correcting the car,” Rogers said. “She’d be in the ditch one minute and over the yellow line the next.”
The Buick sped east, weaving and passing cars, Rogers said. At one point it hit a car while the driver tried to pass on the right.
“That’s when he went into triple digits. He was just flooring it,” Rogers said.
Cpl. Scott Mills of the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office said investigators are still trying to determine how fast Martin was driving, but Rogers and Kim Boivin, who lives next to the crash site, estimated the car was going more than 100 mph when it crashed.
Rogers jumped from his truck to help Martin and his passenger. The teenage girl was in and out of consciousness, he said, and the man later identified as Martin died within seconds.
Boivin, whose 17-year-old son saw the crash, raced to douse the smoking Buick with water from a garden hose and buckets as the girl remained trapped inside.
“This is horrific,” she said. “This is by far one of the worst things I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Mills and Deputy Jeremy Day broke out the Buick’s rear window in an effort with Windsor firefighters to free the girl, Liberty said. Day was taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center with minor cuts and burns.
Martin was sentenced in 2007 in Cumberland County Superior Court to 10 years in prison, with six years suspended, for four counts of robbery in a string of robberies of Portland Pie Co., including one involving a delivery driver, in Portland and South Portland.
The Portland Press Herald reported that Martin, a former Portland Pie Co. employee, and his accomplices rounded up employees and put them in a walk-in cooler during one of the robberies and assaulted a manager during another attempt.
In 2007, Martin reportedly injured four corrections officers at the Cumberland County Jail after the staff determined that he was under the influence of a drug.