February 26, 2013

Westbrook plow truck pulled from pond

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A Westbrook city plow truck got stuck in a pond at Smiling Hill Farm on Sunday when its driver tried to turn around in the farm's circular driveway off County Road.

click image to enlarge

A Westbrook city plow truck partially drove into a pond at Smiling Hill Farm, while using its circular driveway to change direction on County Road on Sunday afternoon.

Michael J. Knight

The driver got out safely and the truck was pulled from the pond with "very minimal damage," said Westbrook Public Services Director Tom Eldridge.

Eldridge said the driver, whom he wouldn't name, is a longtime employee who normally plows on William Clarke Drive and Saco Street, although he had been on the County Road route previously.

Plow drivers for Westbrook and neighboring Scarborough have been using the driveway at Smiling Hill Farm as a turnaround "for God knows how many storms for how many years," said Warren Knight, the farm's president.

He said mail trucks and school buses also change direction in the driveway, which goes around a small pond at the farm's entrance, near the Scarborough line.

Eldridge said the driver of the plow truck that went into the pond started working at 7 a.m. Sunday and took over the route from the driver who normally plows it during a shift change around noon.

While using the driveway to turn back toward Westbrook around 4:30 p.m., he misjudged the path of the road, which hadn't been plowed in a while, Eldridge said.

When the front end of the truck went into the pond, the driver called for help over the radio. A driver who responded took the same off-road path toward the pond and got stuck in the snow.

The city called R. Stewart's Heavy Hauling of South Portland to remove both trucks, which was done within a couple of hours.

"We wanted to make sure we had a large enough unit to get the truck out," said Eldridge, noting that the truck was filled with salt.

He didn't know how heavy the truck was or how much the hauling services will cost the city. Eldridge wouldn't say whether the driver will be disciplined.

"We're going to investigate it like we do any incident we have," he said.

Eldridge said that having two trucks out of service for an hour or two didn't cause much of a delay in the city's storm cleanup. He said as many as 15 trucks were on the roads at any time between midnight Saturday and 7 a.m. Monday.

During any storm, he said, one or two pieces of equipment typically run down for some reason.

Knight said the ordeal didn't cause much of an inconvenience for the farm, although he expects to find some damage to the lawn in the spring.

"We're just glad nobody got hurt," he said.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

lbridgers@pressherald.com

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