WINDHAM – Family and friends are showing their support this week for Toby Pennels, the Windham-area businessman and volunteer who was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident Sunday afternoon near Rangeley.

Pennels, 55, is a Casco-based financial adviser who is running for the District 26 Maine Senate seat. He has served two tours of duty in Iraq and has deep ties to the Windham business community as well as service organizations including the Sebago Lake Rotary Club, Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and Windham Veterans Association.

On Sunday, Pennels and two friends were riding back from the Height of Land scenic overlook on Route 4 south of Rangeley when his Harley-Davidson motorcycle crashed as the group headed south through Sandy River Plantation amid light rain showers, said Mike Reynolds, a Raymond selectman who was riding with Pennels. Pennels was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.

On Tuesday, Pennels’ longtime friend Tom Noonan, said that Pennels was listed in critical condition at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston and had undergone multiple surgeries to halt internal bleeding, as well as several orthopedic operations for broken bones.

“He’s still critical and unconscious,” Noonan said Tuesday. “This is a very dangerous time because of possibilities of swelling after trauma peaks right around this time, so this is a very troubling time for him and his family and friends.

“This is obviously just a nightmare for them,” Noonan said of the Pennels family.

On Wednesday afternoon, Darlene Ryder, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said the public relations department was not allowed to release any information on Pennels’ condition. However, Pennels’ wife, Brenda, has set up a website, http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/tobysjourneyofhope, to keep friends and family updated on his condition. The site, which also has a feature that allows visitors to post messages, had received nearly 650 visits by early Wednesday afternoon.

According to Julie Arsenault, president of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, the chamber has been inundated with inquiries about Pennels.

“The outpouring of concern for Toby’s well-being has been astounding,” Arsenault said. “We have been getting a large number of daily inquiries in person as well as via phone, email and text about Toby’s progress.”

According to Reynolds, who was riding behind Pennels, the group was riding about 45 miles per hour in the early afternoon of Aug. 3 when Pennels’ motorcycle fishtailed into the left lane. The Maine State Police said in a press release that Pennels veered into the path of an oncoming pickup truck driven by Eric McLean, 36, of Rumford.

“He realized that he wasn’t going to be able to get his bike into our lane, and he tried to dive off his bike so that he wouldn’t crash into the traffic,” Reynolds said. “He made a conscious decision, as far as I can tell. It was a heroic effort to save himself.”

Reynolds said that Pennels dove into the right lane, but rolled back toward the left lane after a hard landing on the wet pavement. According to Trooper David Powser, McLean hit the brakes and tried to pull over but could not avoid hitting Pennels.

Tim Pellerin, the Rangeley Fire Department chief who responded to the accident, said Route 4 heading south from Rangeley is a winding, sparsely populated, mountain road known for its “S” turns.

Reynolds said that, prior to the arrival of emergency crews, a number of volunteers from passing cars took command of the accident scene.

“We had people directing traffic, we had people flagging, we had people caring for Toby,” Reynolds said. “It was amazing.”

According to the state police news release, Powser and a Rangeley lifeguard named Bill Hayes gave CPR to Pennels, who was then driven to Avon Airport by NorthStar Emergency Services and flown by helicopter to Central Maine Medical Center.

Reynolds said that he wanted to thank the lifeguard who had delivered emergency care to Pennels.

“He was one of the people that saved Toby,” Reynolds said.

According to Reynolds, Pennels broke an arm and a leg, and has suffered internal bleeding. Reynolds said that Pennels had also possibly broken his pelvis. The state police press release said that Pennels’ chest cavity was “crushed.”

Pennels was stabilized in the hospital’s Critical Care Unit on Sunday night, Reynolds said.

“I know he was in surgery until late last night,” Reynolds said Monday. “There were probably 20 people there last night – family, friends. There were a lot of people there to support.”

Regarding Pennels’ political future as the Republican candidate taking on Democrat Bill Diamond for the Senate seat representing towns in the southern Lakes Region, Rob Caverly, the caucus director for the Maine Senate Republicans, said that it was too soon to determine if Pennels should be replaced in the District 26 race.

“If at all possible, we want to keep the candidate we’ve got,” Caverly said. “We’ve got to see how things shape up in the next few days regarding his health and ability to carry on the campaign.”

Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn said the state does not allow replacement candidates after July 28, unless there is “a catastrophic illness that has permanently and continuously incapacitated the candidate and would prevent performance of the duties of the office sought.”

Flynn said that if Pennels were not able to run, the Republicans would likely be allowed to hold a caucus to replace him.

Toby Pennels


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