November 16, 2013

Witness to I-295 hit-and-run says driver stopped, then took off

The account contradicts the driver who said she didn’t realize she had been in a collision that sent a family tumbling into a ditch.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A witness to a two-car crash on Interstate 295 in Cumberland last week that sent a Brewer family’s car tumbling into the median strip said the driver responsible for the collision stopped, looked back toward the car she hit, then sped off.

click image to enlarge

Maine State Troopers attend to an overturned car Thursday night after an alleged hit-and-run crash on I-295 South in Cumberland, Maine.

Photo by Maine State Trooper Jessica Shorey

Gregory Mehlhorn of Waterboro, who was following behind the two cars involved in the Nov. 6 crash, said the white Toyota Corolla that caused the collision also almost crashed.

“The white car is fishtailing down the highway, gray smoke off the tires, all that good stuff,” said Mehlhorn, who pulled over and called 911. “I’m going to go up to the white car to see if they’re all right, and all of the sudden they take off.”

Mehlhorn’s account differs significantly from the one provided by Julie Caton, 44, of Portland, the driver of the Corolla, in the days after the crash. Caton said she didn’t realize she had been in a crash, and if she had, she would have stopped.

Maine State Police Trooper Jessica Shorey said she tracked Caton down at her Portland home with the help of witnesses, and issued her a summons for failing to stop after being involved in a crash with injuries, and failure to report a crash by the quickest means possible. Both are misdemeanor charges. It’s not clear how long after the crash Shorey located Caton, but no test for intoxicants was given, according to her crash report.

Injured in the crash were Casey Larcombe, 35, and his fiancée, Kathryn LePage, 29, of Brewer. Their two children, 12 and 8, escaped with minor injuries. Larcombe and LePage were treated at Maine Medical Center in Portland and released.

Mehlhorn, who provided a statement for Shorey’s report, said in a telephone interview Friday that he was headed home from work on I-295 southbound when the crash occurred in front of him. Caton’s Corolla was in front of him and Larcombe in front of her, both in the passing lane.

“We had just passed a whole line of traffic. The white car cut right over into the travel lane and started racing along and then kind of ran out of room in the travel lane and went to get back in the passing lane and clipped the front end of that maroon car and that car went into the ditch on the left lane,” he said.

The crash occurred about 4:15 p.m.

“I was looking around every place to see where I was going to go,” Mehlhorn said. “The car on the left is flipping over. I’m still in the passing lane. The white car got straightened out. At the same time the bumper (of the Corolla) is flipping down the travel lane and that ends up in the breakdown lane.”

Shorey recovered the bumper and matched it to Caton’s car.

Mehlhorn turned his attention to the family in the car, which came to a rest on its passenger side. Other witnesses helped the two children and four or five men held the car steady so it wouldn’t fall over. Larcombe and LePage were standing up on the passenger-side windows, their heads protruding through the driver’s-side windows, he said.

Caton said in a brief interview two days after the crash that she did not know there had been a collision until she stopped at a store and saw the damage to her car. She says she would have stopped had she known. She did say that Larcombe’s car was going slowly in the passing lane and should have pulled into the travel lane.

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

dhench@pressherald.com

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