AUGUSTA — Two people were killed Monday in a head-on car crash on Route 3 that closed the busy road for several hours, and police are investigating whether an earlier report of an erratic driver is related to the deadly incident.
Laura Hall, 46, of Liberty, died at the crash scene, said Deputy Chief Jared Mills of the Augusta Police Department. Dean A. James, 45, of South China, was taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta, but he died there shortly thereafter. A third driver, Duane Alexander, 56, of Palermo, was not injured.
All three drivers were alone in their vehicles, Mills said.
The crash occurred around 7:15 a.m. Monday just east of Fairview Estates mobile home park as James drove his 2012 Nissan Altima east on Route 3. James’ Altima apparently crossed into the oncoming lane, Mills said, and hit the back of a 2013 Jeep Liberty registered to Togus police and driven by Alexander.
Mills did not know whether Alexander is a Togus police officer or works elsewhere at VA Maine Healthcare Systems, which is about 5 miles south of where the crash occurred. Togus officials did not immediately return a message Monday seeking comment.
James’ Altima caromed off the Jeep and smashed head-on into Hall’s westbound 2000 Ford Escort, according to Mills.
That section of Route 3, which links to the Midcoast and is one of just two major routes to Down East Maine, was closed for a couple hours and then restricted to one lane. Both lanes were open starting around noon Monday.
A Kennebec County sheriff’s deputy reconstructed the crash. Mills said part of the ongoing investigation is trying to determine what caused James to cross the center line. Blood samples from all the drivers will be tested for intoxicants, which is standard procedure for crashes that involve serious injury or death.
John Martins, spokesman for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, confirmed Monday that Hall was an employee of that agency. Hall worked in an Augusta office and had previously worked in Rockland.
Dale Denno, director of the Office for Family Independence, where Hall worked, said she was respected and well liked by her colleagues and clients.
“We were saddened to hear of the tragic loss of one of our employees,” Denno said. “She was a model employee whose hard work stood out and who led by example. Our thoughts are with Ms. Hall’s family, friends and co-workers.”
The crash occurred about 30 minutes after police received a report of an erratic driver on Route 3 near the Church Hill Road intersection. “We suspect it may be connected, as we were looking for that vehicle earlier,” Mills said. “That is part of the investigation as well.”
The Office of the Secretary of State confirmed Monday that James was legally permitted to drive at the time of the crash.
A Kennebec County grand jury last June indicted James on six charges, including drug and firearm charges. Two of the charges, aggravated trafficking in scheduled drugs — oxycodone and hydrocodone — carried a potential 30-year prison sentence. James also was charged with unlawful furnishing of marijuana and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.
Two other counts in the indictment called for the criminal forfeiture of a 2005 Toyota Tundra, allegedly used in the commission of the crimes, and the forfeiture of firearms or dangerous weapons authorities said were found during a search.
An indictment is not a determination of guilt, but it means there’s enough evidence to proceed with formal charges and a trial. Mills said he was unsure of the case status and Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney did not return a call seeking comment on the charges.
James previously was convicted of aggravated trafficking in scheduled drugs in 2000.
Craig Crosby — 621-5642