October 1, 2013

Portland victim’s actions before turnpike crash puzzle police

Aeriel Rodriguez, 24, was struck and killed on the turnpike while trying to flag down help for a flat tire.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Aeriel Rodriguez, 24, of Kittery, who was killed on the Maine Turnpike Sunday night, was remembered by her family Tuesday as a great mother, a wonderful wife and an excellent cook.

click image to enlarge

Aeriel Rodriguez

Courtesy photo

Her husband, Warren Rodriguez, said Tuesday morning that he and Aeriel met at a restaurant in Broward County, Fla. They married and had two daughters, and moved to Maine after Warren Rodriguez joined the Navy in 2011.

He said his wife loved Maine and the changing of the seasons.

One of the Rodriguezes’ daughters is preschool-age and the other is a pupil at Mitchell Primary School in Kittery.

Warren Rodriguez is stationed at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard with the USS Miami.

Rodriguez was driving south near the Portland-Falmouth line when she got a flat tire, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine State Police. She had pulled over into the breakdown lane.

Maine State Police say they had received several calls about a woman in the travel lane of the Maine Turnpike in Portland trying to flag down motorists just before Rodriguez was hit and killed at about 7:15 p.m. Sunday.

The pickup truck was driven by Michael Hawk, 42, of Lewiston. Hawk was not injured.

“There’s going to be no charges filed. The driver was not at fault,” McCausland said.

“State police, minutes before getting the call that she had been struck, had received other calls from motorists who had just missed her,” he said.

A trooper who was four or five miles away at the time of the initial calls was en route to investigate but had not yet arrived when the woman was hit, he said.

“We have no explanation for why she was in the roadway waving her arms,” McCausland said.

Police also do not know why Rodriguez did not use the cellphone she had in the car to call for help.

McCausland said motorists who break down on the highway should pull well off the road and put on their flashing lights, stay in the car and use a cellphone to call 911 if they have one.

If they do not have a cellphone, they should raise the hood of the car, which is a traditional sign of distress, he said.

Police closed the southbound lanes of the turnpike for about two hours after the crash.

Police at first could not identify Rodriguez because she had no identification with her or in the car, McCausland said. They were eventually able to reach her husband.

Warren Rodriguez is a machinist’s mate assigned to the USS Miami. He reported to the Los Angeles-class attack submarine in February 2011, according to the Navy.

The submarine arrived in Kittery in 2012 for a major overhaul but was set on fire by a civilian worker. The Navy has since decided to decommission the sub.

Lt. Tim Hawkins, public affairs officer for Submarine Group 2, said the Navy extends its condolences to the Rodriguez family for the “unimaginable loss from this accident.”

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our Navy family members,” Hawkins said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Petty Officer 3rd Class Warren Rodriguez and his family.”

The family was still making funeral arrangements for Aeriel on Tuesday, Warren Rodriguez said.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:dhench@mainetoday.comTwitter: @Mainehenchman

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