Wednesday, May 22, 2013
An elderly man who was among 11 people injured in a crash in which rescue crews were slowed by radio jamming died Thursday night at Maine Medical Center.
Walter Rand, 102, of Sanford died from injuries he suffered in the crash July 22 on Route 202 in Lebanon, said Maj. Bill King of the York County Sheriff's Office.
Ten other people were injured in the accident, which involved several vehicles, but none of those injuries was life-threatening.
The crash itself was not suspicious, but officials have said emergency crews were delayed for eight minutes because someone was jamming radio signals. That jamming is believed to be deliberate and is under investigation by the Federal Communications Commission, in cooperation with local authorities.
Lebanon rescue workers met with FCC officials last week to discuss the case. Assistant Rescue Chief Jason Cole said the meeting was productive, but he wouldn't disclose any details for fear of jeopardizing the investigation.
It wasn't clear Friday whether Rand's death will affect the investigation. Cole was on vacation and could not be reached, and FCC spokesmen did not return calls seeking comment.
It also was unclear which agencies are participating in the investigation. Cole said last week that the York County Sheriff's Office was involved, but King said Friday that is not the case.
Lebanon does not have its own police department; it relies on the county for police services.
Legal expects said it's possible, but highly unlikely, that if the radio jammer is found, he or she would face manslaughter charges in connection with Rand's death.
"It's going to be a reach because (prosecutors) would have to prove causation. They would have to prove that the interruption of the radio directly caused this man's death," said Paul Aronson, a defense attorney and a former Cumberland County district attorney.
Mark Dion, a former Cumberland County sheriff who is now a lawyer and a state lawmaker from Portland, agreed but said he would need much more information to say whether someone could or should be charged with manslaughter.
"You would have to be able to draw a straight line," he said.
Dion said radio problems popped up from time to time when he was in law enforcement, but he never experienced intentional jamming.
Sometimes, accidental interference occurs when two parties use the same communications band unknowingly. Intentional radio jamming is rare but relatively easy to do.
There are no limits or restrictions on who can buy certain equipment, and anyone with general knowledge of how the radios work can program them to public safety agency channels and send out strong enough signals to override them.
Lebanon and a few surrounding towns have been dealing with radio jamming periodically for the last several years. Cole who filed a complaint with the FCC in April after a jamming incident hampered response to a mobile-home fire.
The penalty for radio jamming is a fine of as much as $112,500 or, in some cases, prison.
An FCC spokesman said last week that unless officials catch a jammer in the act, it's difficult to pinpoint exactly where the problem is originating.
Cole said last week that he thought the investigation was moving toward closure but the responsible person has not yet been found.
Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at: