BANGOR — Defects in a logging truck’s wheel assemblies that led to the highway death of a Maine State Police detective could have been caught on two separate occasions in the weeks before the April accident, authorities said Friday.

State Police Detective Ben Campbell was killed on the morning of April 3 on Interstate 95 in Hampden when he was struck by one of two wheels that detached from the passing logging truck while he was helping a stopped driver.

Campbell, 31, of Millinocket, later died at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

During a news conference announcing the completion of the state police investigation Friday morning at the state police Troop E barracks in Bangor, Col. John Cote highlighted problems with the logging truck trailer’s wheel assemblies discovered during an investigation of the vehicle following the crash. Cote said those problems could have been discovered when the vehicle was being inspected and when new tires were mounted on two separate occasions in the weeks before the accident.

Cote said the state police investigation is being reviewed by the Penobscot County District Attorney’s Office and any potential charges against any party would be handled by the District Attorney’s Office. Marianne Lynch, district attorney in Penobscot County, did not return a message immediately seeking comment after Friday’s news conference.

Cote said authorities have briefed Campbell’s family and said he did nothing wrong by standing away from traffic and near the guardrail while assisting a driver off Interstate 95 in Hampden.

“(His family) appreciated the information,” Cote said. “I think it was difficult for them to hear it, but I think they know that Ben was doing the job he loved. (His family members) are doing remarkably well under the circumstances. He still is deeply missed every day.

“He was standing exactly where our training and experience would tell us to be.”

Cote said one of the logging truck’s wheel assemblies showed cracks in between the 10 lug holes, which hinted at a failing of the entire assembly, saying they were broken and bent as well, instead of the tire not being secured with enough lug nuts. Pictures of the wheel assembly showed that its hub pilots were highly degraded compared to a new assembly.

Those problems, Cote said, would have resulted in the truck being taken out of service if caught during the inspection.

Cote said the truck was looked over March 7 at Timberland Trucking in Medway but was not subject to a “full and thorough” inspection that could have caught problems with the wheel assemblies.

Cote said the inspection license of technician Maurice Gray, who performed the inspection on the truck, was suspended for six months, the maximum penalty for a first-time offense. Timberland Trucking was given a warning because there were no “systemic” issues found in its practices.

The problem also could have been caught when new tires were mounted on the wheel assemblies March 14 at Bangor Tire Company 2 in Hermon. Cote said this was the “best opportunity” to discover the problems because the wheels were removed while the tires were mounted on them.

Cote said data on how often truck tires separate from a trailer is nearly impossible to track because it is not always reported to police.

“It’s difficult for us to get data” on how often tires come off of trailers in this manner, he said. “Wheel separation, if it goes off harmlessly on the roadside, … would not become a reported accident.”

Cote said both wheels that fell off were involved in the incident. The wheel that fell off the outside hit the guardrail and was guided to where Campbell was standing, striking and killing him. The inside wheel fell off and hit the front of the car whose driver Campbell was helping.

In the hours that followed the accident, the man who identified himself as the driver whom Campbell had stopped to help, Robert John Anthony, of Clifton, wrote a heartfelt Facebook post in which he said, “as long as I live, I will carry the memory of the smiling officer who was just there to help.”

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: