Three people were injured, one critically, in a four-vehicle crash Thursday afternoon in Woolwich that forced police to close Route 1 for 20 minutes and backed up traffic for three miles in both directions.

Police said drivers not paying attention and following one another too closely were likely to blame for the accident.

The Route 1 closure, which happened about 4:30 during the afternoon commute, backed up traffic to the Sagadahoc Bridge in Bath to the south and Wiscasset to the north.

“Traffic did get backed up for miles,” said Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry. “For us, it was all hands on deck.”

Maine State Police, the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office, the Woolwich Fire Department and three ambulance companies responded to the crash site at Route 1 and Shaw Road.

All four vehicles were destroyed and three people were transported by ambulance to local hospitals.

The most serious injury was to 84-year-old Paul Simpson of Bradenton, Florida, who was transported to Maine Medical Center in Portland with a head injury. He was listed in critical condition Thursday evening, a hospital spokeswoman said.

According to a news release from the sheriff’s office, 45-year-old Thomas Palmer of Montpelier, Vermont, was driving north on Route 1 in Woolwich when he rear-ended a 2010 Toyota sedan driven by 39-year-old Albert Pinkham of Wiscasset. Police said Pinkham was stopped in traffic waiting to make a left turn onto Shaw Road.

Palmer’s 2011 Chevy pickup truck shoved Pinkham’s car into the southbound lane, where it collided with a 2015 Honda van operated by 70-year-old Gloria Simpson of Bradenton, Florida.

“There was a pinball effect,” Merry said. The force of the collision pushed Simpson’s van into a fourth vehicle – a 2009 Honda SUV operated by 66-year-old Martin Hayden of Brunswick.

Hayden, Gloria Simpson and her husband, Paul Simpson, were taken to Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick. Paul Simpson was later transferred to Maine Medical Center.

Alcohol is not believed to have been a factor. All of the occupants were wearing seatbelts.

Though the cause of the crash remains under investigation, Merry said it would appear that driver inattention on Palmer’s part was a factor.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]