Operator error causes crane boom to collapse into river

The boom of a crane collapsed into the Chute River on Tuesday morning. No one was injured in the incident, which occurred about 11 a.m. on Route 302.

The crane was being used to rebuild the bridge at the causeway. When getting out of the cab, the operator apparently hit a lever that engaged the main hoist line. It ultimately flipped the boom over the cab of the crane, which remained in place on its treads, said Mark Latti, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

The operator engaged the main hoist line without realizing it, and it moved to the tip of the boom, causing the boom to collapse backward.

The section of Route 302 was closed for about 10 minutes as the boom was removed, said Firefighter Paul Ratigan.

The part of the boom that went in the water – a section about 20 feet long – was cut off and removed with another piece of heavy equipment, Latti said. The collapsed boom did not damage the road or anything else at the site.


Mom, three kids homeless after fire destroys house

A fast-moving fire destroyed a house on Oak Street on Tuesday morning and left a family of four homeless.

Tracey Bragdon, 44, said she had just left her house with her three children and was walking down nearby Ticonic Street when her next-door neighbor, Steve Nye, chased her down the street to tell her the house was on fire.

“We flew back and the house was almost gone,” Bragdon said at the scene.

Nye said he called 911 at 9:01 a.m., when he realized the two-story house was burning.

“I was sitting on the front porch and saw smoke and went over, and the flames just burst right through,” he said.

About 40 firefighters rushed to the house, which was already engulfed in flames, said Waterville Fire Chief David LaFountain.

LaFountain said the state Fire Marshal’s Office will investigate the fire’s cause. LaFountain said, “Crews coming out said there was fire in every room.”

As firefighters worked and neighbors stood watching, friends consoled and embraced Bragdon, saying they would help her and her family.

Bragdon said she and her children, Kaylynn, 13, Keatin, 10, and Keon, 5, had lived in the house for about five years. She said the house was insured.


Car drives off road, into house; no one injured

No one was injured Tuesday night when a car went off the road and hit a house at 8 Allen Ave. Extension.

Police said the car went off the road near Allen Avenue and Ledgewood Drive shortly after 7 p.m. The car crashed through a fence before hitting the house, which was unoccupied at the time.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation. The name of the driver was not available Tuesday night.


Tourist from South Korea dies after kayak flips over

A 75-year-old man from South Korea died Tuesday while kayaking on Beech Hill Pond.

Authorities say Hong Sohn of Seoul, South Korea, was kayaking about 300 feet from shore when his kayak overturned around 10 a.m. He tried to swim to shore but went under.

Sgt. Chris Simmons of the Maine Warden Service said people on the pond tried to help him but were unsuccessful.

Sohn, who was vacationing in Maine with his wife, was not wearing a life jacket.


Republican group to host presidential candidate

The Maine Republican Liberty Caucus says GOP presidential candidate Gary Johnson will be the guest speaker at its annual Calvin Coolidge Clambake fundraiser.

The group says Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, will speak at the event Aug. 26 at Wolfe’s Neck State Park in Freeport.

The caucus describes itself as a volunteer grass-roots wing of the Republican Party that favors small government and individual liberties. Caucus officials say they have not endorsed a presidential candidate but have offered a forum for candidates at its events.


Fiancee of man who died sues men who fought him

The fiancee of a Bangor man who died after a late-night altercation outside a bar has sued three men.

In a complaint filed in Penobscot County Superior Court, Dale Lambert alleges that the men pushed 47-year-old Ralph Greenleaf to the ground outside Carolina’s Bar last August. Greenleaf hit his head and died three days later.

Nobody was charged after a grand jury decided the case didn’t rise to the level of criminal charges. The Bangor Daily News reported that Lambert is seeking damages for emotional distress, pain and suffering.


Woman charged with smuggling drug into jail

A Maine woman is facing charges that she smuggled the synthetic drug bath salts into the Penobscot County Jail.

Police say Kari Hersey, 26, carried the recently outlawed lab-made drug inside her body when she was processed into the jail about 8 a.m. Saturday on charges that she had failed to pay for a hotel room where she had been staying.

Bangor Police Sgt. Paul Edwards said a corrections officer saw Hersey consuming the bath salts. She was hospitalized.

Edwards told the Bangor Daily News that Hersey was charged with felony trafficking in prison contraband. If convicted, Hersey could get five years in prison.


Judicial panel to interview six candidates for justice

Gov. Paul LePage’s Judicial Selection Committee will interview six candidates for a Superior Court justice position next week.

The committee will forward its recommended finalists to the governor for him to interview, said Dan Billings, chief counsel to LePage. The governor will interview the finalists himself, Billings said.

The plan is to post the name of the nominee by the end of this month, Billings said. The names of the applicants are not being released.

The committee chose the candidates to interview from a pool of more than 30 applicants. Some applicants first joined the application pool when a District Court vacancy came up, and others applied after the Superior Court opening was announced.

The Superior Court position will be open because of the retirement of Justice G. Arthur Brennan on Aug. 26.


AG settles with company that violated state trade act

The state Attorney General’s Office has reached an agreement with a Texas-based debt-settlement company that was accused of violating Maine’s Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Credit Solutions of America and its owner, Douglas Van Arsdale, agreed to enter into a consent judgment to settle allegations of unfair trade practices.

Since 2003, the company promised Maine consumers it would negotiate with their creditors to settle their credit card and other unsecured debts.

The company claimed it could eliminate 40 percent to 60 percent of a consumer’s debts. It collected advance fees of up to 15 percent of the total debt to be negotiated. It held the consumers responsible for the enrollment fees regardless of whether all of the debt was settled. Of the 561 Maine consumers who enrolled and paid advance fees, only six had 40 percent of their debt settled.

“Maine consumers in financial distress are particularly vulnerable to deceptive marketing of debt-relief services,” Attorney General William Schneider said in a prepared statement. “Despite CSA’s claims that consumers who enrolled in their program would be debt-free in 36 months, the truth is that debt relief is not a quick fix.”

Under the consent judgment, the company and Van Arsdale will not accept advance payment for services and will not enter into enrollment contracts with new Maine consumers. The company must also pay $150,000 for the cost of the investigation and litigation.


USM named one of the best colleges in the Northeast

The Princeton Review has named the University of Southern Maine as one of the best colleges in the Northeast.

On Aug. 1, posted a list of 220 institutions as “Best in the Northeast.” The review’s profile includes comments from students at USM.

About 25 percent of the four-year colleges in the country were chosen for the Princeton Review’s “2012 Best Colleges: Region by Region.” The Northeast includes Maine, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont, plus the District of Columbia.

“These colleges are chosen mainly for their excellent academic programs, based on information The Princeton Review gathers from institutional data, school visits, plus feedback from current students and college counselors,” said USM Dean of Undergraduate Admission Scott Steinberg.


Sandwich chain donating $400,000 to Camp Sunshine

Camp Sunshine was expected to receive a $400,000 check from Tropical Smoothie Cafe on Tuesday.

The national sandwich and smoothie chain raised the money during the Fifth Annual Flip Flop Day in June. The Rochester, N.H., location was among more than 300 across the country that helped raise money for the camp to support its mission of assisting families of children with life-threatening illnesses.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe employees will volunteer at Camp Sunshine throughout this week. This donation brings the total given by the cafe to the camp to $1.1 million.


Topsham Fair under way, runs through Sunday

The Topsham Fair is under way for the 157th year.

The fair at the Topsham Fairgrounds began Tuesday and continues through Sunday. It features agricultural activities, carnival rides, plenty of food, harness racing and nightly entertainment that includes two demolition derbies, professional wrestling, a truck pull, country music and fireworks.

Organizers say more than 25,000 people show up each year. The fair charges $10 for admission, which covers carnival rides.


Groups cheer growth of smoke-free housing

A coalition of health and clean-air groups is applauding numbers showing smoke-free policies in public housing and privately owned rental units.

The Breathe Easy Coalition of Maine says 100 percent of the state’s public housing authorities have adopted smoke-free policies.

The coalition also says a survey it commissioned shows that 47 percent of Maine renters are living in smoke-free housing, and 48 percent of landlords prohibit smoking in their buildings. The survey was done during the past two months.

The survey by Critical Insights of Portland also showed that 43 percent of tenants indicated willingness to pay more to live in smoke-free housing.

The Breathe Easy Coalition consists of the Smoke-Free Housing Coalition of Maine, Maine Tobacco-Free Hospital Network and Maine Tobacco-Free College Network.