Bangor’s Fourth of July celebration got off to a tragic start when the driver of an antique tractor was killed during the holiday parade, which had been rerouted to avoid a police standoff in which a gunman fired more than 70 times.
Bangor police said the tractor was making a right turn onto Water Street when it was struck from behind by a vintage Bangor Hose Fire Museum fire truck.
An eyewitness said the tractor tipped over, spilling the driver onto the road and into the path of the truck. Several people in the crowd surged forward to help the driver, but had to retreat because the fire truck was coming at them.
“There was sort of a cry of alarm when he rolled into the path of the truck, and we had to run to get out of the way,” said Marie Tessier, who was there with her 11-year-old daughter and a friend. Tessier said she pulled a baby carriage out of the truck’s way before they had to fall back because it wasn’t clear where the fire truck was headed.
“As we ran away, I heard a moan that came out of the crowd, and it was only then I turned around and saw what had happened,” she said.
People in the crowd pushed the fire truck up the sloped hill and off the man, but it was clear he did not survive, she said.
“It was just horrible. There were a lot of people crying,” said Tessier, a Bangor resident and journalist who moderates comments on NYTimes.com. “I heard someone saying, ‘Get the kids out of here, get the kids out of here.'”
Police did not release the tractor driver’s name, but parade Chairman Doug Damon said he was Walter “Wally” Fenelson. Damon said Fenelson had participated in the parade with his tractor for the past several years.
“He was a great guy,” Damon said. “We’re very sad about what happened.”
There hasn’t been a significant injury in the parade in the 15 years he’s been chairman, Damon said.
Earlier, after the standoff with the gunman began downtown, Damon worked with police to determine how to handle the parade, which was about to start.
Gov. Paul LePage and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud were among the dignitaries in the parade.
“The parade (was supposed to go) by the intersection where the shooting was occurring, so that was obviously out of the question,” Damon said. Just after 9 a.m., Damon and police decided to reroute the parade down Water Street to avoid the downtown area.
Bangor police said officers responded to 47 Park St. about 8:30 a.m. after someone reported a man shooting a gun, “sending a woman and her baby fleeing for help,” according to a police news release. When they arrived, they could see a man in a second-story window shooting “indiscriminately.”
Police evacuated an apartment building, told spectators to stay out of the downtown area and shut down several streets. The gunman began firing at officers, first responders and at members of the police Special Response Team, police said.
They ended the four-hour standoff by shooting tear gas into the apartment and taking Bangor resident Perrin Oliver, 43, into custody.
No one was injured in the shooting or standoff, police said. Oliver was charged with felony criminal threatening and aggravated reckless conduct with a gun. He was being held at the Penobscot County Jail.
Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at: