Casey Larcombe and his fiancée, Kathryn LePage, are still trying to fathom how the woman who police say caused a harrowing crash on Interstate 295 in Cumberland had such disdain for their lives, and their children’s, that she drove away without ever stopping.
“Knowing that she ran a family off the side of the road and wasn’t arrested or tested for drinking or under the influence, it was surreal,” LePage said Thursday, a day after the crash.
Police say Julie Caton, 44, of Portland, was driving south on the interstate when she passed several vehicles on the right just after 4 p.m. Wednesday. The last one was Larcombe’s 1994 Saturn.
When she pulled in front of him, her car hit the Saturn’s front right fender, Larcombe said, sending his car into the median, where it tumbled end over end and rolled until it came to rest on the passenger side.
Police later issued Caton a summons to appear in court on misdemeanor charges of leaving the scene of an accident and failing to report an accident.
Larcombe and LePage lay in nearby rooms in Maine Medical Center’s emergency room Thursday, being checked for broken bones.
They also were trying to figure out how to get home to Brewer for work, with their car destroyed. He’s a substance abuse counselor and she works in a group home for disabled elderly residents.
“We’re kind of confused with how somebody could blatantly almost end a family’s life and get away with a ticket,” said Larcombe, 35, who said he has a concussion and was having his spine X-rayed.
His two children, Rylee, 12, and C.J., 8, were in the back seat of the sedan when the crash happened.
While motorists went to help the family, one followed the woman who had kept driving, and later provided police with a license plate number.
Trooper Jessica Shorey said Wednesday night that she found Caton at her home and issued her the court summons. It wasn’t clear Thursday whether Caton was given a sobriety or blood test, but police did not charge her with being impaired.
Shorey was not on duty Thursday, and a call to the barracks in Alfred, which covers that section of the interstate, wasn’t returned.
State police spokesman Stephen McCausland said he couldn’t learn much about the case because the trooper wasn’t working.
Troopers have discretion in deciding when to arrest someone and when to issue a summons, he said, but he didn’t know what the circumstances were on Wednesday.
Under Maine law, an officer can arrest someone on a misdemeanor charge only if the alleged crime is committed in the officer’s presence. An officer can arrest a person on a felony charge even if it’s not committed in the officer’s presence, if the officer has probable cause to believe the suspect committed the crime.
Caton could not be located Wednesday. She has no cases on file in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court, according to the staff there, and she has never been booked into the county jail. She had never had an accident before Wednesday, according to state police records.
Larcombe and LePage said they were driving south to pick up LePage’s 3-year-old daughter at the girl’s grandmother’s house in Hollis. Larcombe remembers driving along at about 65 to 70 mph in the passing lane. He said he saw a car coming up behind him fast.
“She’d get really close and then back off and was weaving around, like she thought she was a NASCAR driver or something,” he said.
“She starts to pass on the right. The children told me she made the motion with her hand like a pistol, ‘cops and robbers,’ ” he said.
Larcombe doesn’t know why the woman swerved into his car. He said there were still several car lengths of space in front of her in the travel lane, but no space to pull in between him and the car in front of him.
“It was like she cranked the wheel right into us. I tried to correct a little but there was no chance,” he said.
He remembers feeling his car sliding and then tumbling, and putting his arm above his head to keep it from hitting the roof. When the car settled on the passenger side, his arm was scraped, and rocks and dirt were in his face, throat and eyes.
“Initially, I couldn’t open my eyes to see where the kids were. I could hear Kathryn yelling for the kids,” he said.
LePage didn’t see the collision coming. “All of a sudden we got rammed really hard,” she said.
As they tumbled, Larcombe and LePage saw glimpses of a drainage grate, which they hit, and the posts of the median guardrail.
After the car came to rest, about a half-dozen witnesses arrived quickly, holding the car up so it didn’t roll any more, LePage said.
“When I turned around, C.J. wasn’t moving. He was not responding to me calling his name,” she said. She turned him over and he stared at his stepmother silently.
“I said ‘Are you OK, C.J.?’ He shook his head yes,” she said. “It’s an image I’ll have for the rest of my life.”
Then she pushed him out the back window, which had been smashed out. Rylee followed.
Rylee wasn’t injured, but a chunk of her hair got tangled in the handle above the door and ripped out, LePage said. C.J. ended up with a couple of swollen fingers.
LePage and Larcombe couldn’t get out of the car because it was so damaged. Firefighters arrived and used extrication tools to peel back the roof so the two could get out. Larcombe said it took about 45 minutes.
The whole family went to the hospital. All four were released Wednesday night, but Larcombe and LePage were back in the emergency room Thursday as the pain of the crash set in and the adrenaline wore off.
LePage said she fears that she will lose her job if she is physically unable to care for her clients.
As angry as Larcombe is with the woman who hit them, he was impressed by the people who helped them.
“I’m so thankful for the people who did stop, and the people who followed her,” he said. “I didn’t get any names or anything. There were some genuinely great-hearted people that stopped to help.”
David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: