July 20, 2013

Bangor parade death raises questions

A fatality caused by a 1930 fire truck on July Fourth sparks a debate over Maine's lack of mandated inspections for antique vehicles.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Ed Marks, president of the Portland Veteran Firemen’s Association, is shown with a 1938 McCann pumper at the Portland Fire Museum. The truck is no longer driven because its exhaust can cause damage.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Colter Olson, 7, of Yarmouth talks with Bob Theriault of Cumberland Center before the start of the Yarmouth Clam Festival Parade on Friday in Yarmouth. Of the 1.26 million vehicles registered in Maine, 19,000 are registered as antiques, meaning they are at least 25 years old.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

The case remains under investigation and no cause has been identified, police said.

The Bangor Fire Department and Hose 5 Museum, the nonprofit group that runs the city's fire history museum, have not said whose responsibility it was to maintain the vehicle or the last time it was serviced. They referred questions to the city attorney and city manager.

Following the crash, city attorney Norman Heitmann searched city archives for records about the truck and who is responsible for it. He found a 1983 document that indicates the truck will remain owned by the city but allows the "McCann Committee," which was composed of current and former firefighters, to use the 83-year-old pumper in parades and other special events.

The document makes the McCann Committee responsible for maintenance of the pumper, which can be used only for ceremonial purposes and must be driven by a Bangor firefighter.

The city has given its information to its general liability insurance carrier, which is conducting its own investigation, Heitmann said .

Heitmann said he has not been able to find any other references in city records to the McCann Committee and he is not sure who has been responsible for the fire truck, though he said it appears to have been on loan to the museum.

The Portland Veteran Firemen's Association owns a 1938 McCann fire truck that used to be brought out for parades, and the association hired someone with special expertise to maintain it. The truck is no longer driven, not because of safety concerns, but because the exhaust that comes out of it damages other valuable pieces of the collection, said Ed Marks, president of the association.

"Any time we have apparatus, old as it is, there can be mechanical failures. ... It really is what it is, a tragedy," Marks said.

Vintage vehicle enthusiasts say most collectors feel a strong affinity for their vehicles and keep them in very good condition.

"It's pride," said Thornton Ring, who served with fire departments in Freeport, Kingfield and Carrabassett Valley and now owns a 1969 Thibault fire truck, which he uses in parades and shows. When he bought it 12 years ago, it had 11,000 miles on it, he said.

"There are people within the fire service, particularly the volunteer part of the fire service, who are very dedicated to the history" of the fire service, he said.

Older vehicles are not necessarily more difficult to maintain because modern vehicles are loaded with electronics and older ones are strictly mechanical, said Stentiford.

"The average bill for servicing a classic car is significantly less than a modern computerized car," he said. "You just need to go in for checkups a little more regularly."

Stentiford said even when vintage vehicles are well-maintained and meet all their safety requirements, they still require the driver to maintain a different mind set when driving an antique, compared to a modern vehicle. Antiques often don't handle as well and require more attention. 

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@mainetoday.com

 

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