June 26, 1871: An axle breaks on a coal car on a Maine Central Railroad train bound for Portland, ripping up tracks east of Freeport.

The six cars behind the car overturn, killing baggage master George Chase of Skowhegan, who is crushed beneath the demolished baggage car in which he was riding. Many others are injured, including a brakeman, Alfred Barron, whose leg is trapped and bleeding severely. Dr. F.N. Otis of New York, who happens to be aboard the train, amputates part of Barron’s leg with a knife and a saw.

The train departed Bangor earlier in the day and stopped in Augusta. It was carrying cars from Farmington and Skowhegan that had been attached en route.

“In all the wreck and crush of matter that we have described it may almost be counted as a miracle that no passenger was materially injured,” the Portland Daily Press reports the next day, after a long recitation of how each of the derailed cars burrowed into the ground or lay askew on the tracks.

The next day, two other Maine Central trains collide south of Hallowell. The crash kills engineer David H. Berry of Brunswick, who was driving the southbound train, which left Augusta just before 3 p.m. Several others aboard the trains are injured severely.

The wife and child of Chase, who died in the Freeport accident, also are aboard the southbound train in the Hallowell crash. After the collision, the woman grabs her child and leaps out of the car, despite other passengers’ efforts to restrain her, and falls down an embankment.

June 26, 1943: A twin-engine Army bomber crashes into a potato field in Fort Fairfield, killing the pilot, 1st Lt. Bernard M. Robertson of Greenville Junction, and the other four people on the plane, as well as four people on the ground.

One of the plane’s wings strikes the ground, causing the plane to cartwheel and parts to fly off and cut down workers in the field.

The plane was on a training flight.

Robertson was a former Maine State Police officer. The crash site is partly on farmland owned by Robertson’s father-in-law, Carl Rasmussen. The victims on the ground, including a 9-year-old boy, were picking rocks out of the potato field for Rasmussen.

The crash shows that while many Americans are putting their lives on the line in World War II – at that time, the bloody Italian campaign is front-page news – military operations in the United States carry their own risk.

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Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com. To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]

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