November 23, 2012

Black ice blamed in 3 fatal Maine crashes

State police issue a reminder to motorists that bridges and overpasses are the first to freeze.

The Associated Press

ALTON — A pre-winter coating of black ice on roads in northern New England caused several traffic accidents and at least three deaths Thursday and Friday.

Maine State Police said the morning's rush hour brought a rash of accidents on icy roads in the southern part of the state, and police in Vermont reported accidents Thursday evening and Friday morning. No serious injuries resulted from those accidents.

• But in Alton, a 90-minute drive northeast of Augusta, an SUV hit black ice in foggy conditions on a bridge Friday morning, crashing into a tree, rolling over and bursting into flames along Interstate 95, killing a woman and seriously injuring her boyfriend.

The driver, Jesi Rai Burleigh, 24, of Lincoln, died and her boyfriend, Anthony Dupuis, 38, of Greenbush, was hospitalized in intensive care.

• Black ice also was blamed for an accident early Thursday on Route 108 near the Peru-Rumford town line.

A car hit a patch of black ice, went out of control and crashed, ejecting the driver, Jake Pomeroy of Dixfield, and killing him.

The driver of a pickup truck, trying to avoid the accident, also crashed, suffering injuries that required treatment at a hospital.

• In Hermon, a pickup truck hit a patch of black ice in a low-lying area, left the road and rolled over late Thursday, killing a mother and injuring her daughter, police said.

The driver, Retha Thomas, 50, died, said Penobscot County Chief Deputy Troy Morton. Her 18-year-old daughter, Brooke Thomas-Soper, sustained non-life threatening injuries.

Thomas had recently moved to her daughter's home in Levant.

The black-ice accidents prompted Maine State Police Trooper Darren Vittum to offer advice to motorists.

"When you're coming up to the overpass, definitely slow down, take your foot off the accelerator, because they're the first things that freeze up this time of year," said Vittum, who investigated the crash in Alton. "Just coast over them instead of being under power."

Overnight weather wasn't expected to improve much in the region, forecasters said.

In northern New Hampshire and Maine's mountains, rain Friday night was expected to turn to snow showers early Saturday. Farther south and at lower elevations, scattered showers were possible after midnight.

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