July 27, 2013

Investigation confirms antique truck's brakes failed before parade death

The vehicles were following a makeshift route after the Bangor parade had to be detoured because of an armed standoff.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

An investigation into the fatal crash at Bangor’s Fourth of July parade confirmed that the antique fire engine that crushed a Holden man lost its braking ability.

The city’s 1930 McCann pumper was being driven by Patrick Heathcote, 29, a Bangor firefighter, with his two daughters on the back. 

Wallace Fenlason, 63, was driving a 1941 John Deere tractor ahead of the pumper.

The vehicles were following a makeshift route after the parade had to be detoured because of an armed standoff between police and a suspect.

An accident investigation by Officer Russell Twaddell and a vehicle autopsy assisted by the Maine State Police inspections division confirmed that the brakes had malfunctioned on the antique pumper.

The report, made available Friday, said Fenlason had slowed his antique tractor on the downhill incline of Water Street at the intersection with Main Street and that the pumper “lost its braking ability” and struck the tractor.

The report does not elaborate but was released following a vehicle autopsy performed a week ago.

Fenlason was ejected and landed in the road in the path of the pumper, which hit him. He died as a result of a neck injury, according to the report.

The crash rekindled debate over whether antique vehicles should be subject to annual inspections. Currently they are required to meet basic safety standards but unlike modern vehicles are not subjected to routine annual inspections. 

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