March 4, 2010

Wrong-way driver crashes into cruiser

BETTY ADAMS

— By

Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — A motorist who drove the wrong way on Interstate 95 from Waterville to Augusta and crashed head-on into a Maine State Police cruiser is facing criminal charges, police said Friday.

Richard LaChance, 56, of Belgrade was hurt in the crash just before 9:30 p.m. Thursday at mile marker 116 in Augusta, and was taken to a hospital in Lewiston.

Trooper Rick Moody escaped injury by driving to a wooded area in the middle of the divided highway, said state police Lt. Don Pomelow.

LaChance was charged at the hospital with two misdemeanor traffic offenses while the investigation continues, Pomelow said.

Police got numerous calls, beginning at 9:15 p.m., about a car going south in the northbound lanes. The first caller reported the vehicle at mile marker 130 in Waterville, Pomelow said.

''Just about every mile, someone called in to report the wrong-way driver,'' Pomelow said.

He said Moody got on I-95 in Augusta and went north to try to stop the driver.

''There are a couple of knolls right around (mile) 116, and he was able to see the headlights, so he pulls off on the passing lane side to deploy the spike mats,'' Pomelow said after watching a video of the incident Friday.

''After he put out the mats, he goes back behind the vehicle quite a ways. The driver, who was in the passing lane, steers right into the vehicle and hits head-on,'' Pomelow said.

Pomelow said that the cruiser, a 2008 Crown Victoria, and LaChance's Lincoln Continental ended up in the wooded area. Both were destroyed, he said.

The interstate's northbound lanes were closed until the cars were removed.

Augusta fire and rescue crews took LaChance to the hospital.

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