A Falmouth couple were killed Tuesday when their vehicle was hit from behind by a tractor-trailer on the Maine Turnpike after traffic slowed for a separate crash that occurred as police chased an erratic driver, Maine State Police said Wednesday.

Elizabeth and Geoffrey Gattis, both 68, died in the crash just after 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon in southern York County. At the time, traffic in both directions on the turnpike was stopped or slowed because of the crash related to the police pursuit. A tractor-trailer driven by David Herring, 38, of South Portland failed to slow for traffic and struck the couple’s Lexus from behind, pushing it under a tractor-trailer that was hauling large paper rolls, according to state police.

Geoff Gattis retired in 2018 as executive vice president of Bath Savings, where he had worked since 1992.

Elizabeth “Betsy” Gattis was a retired longtime copy editor at the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram.

The couple had two children and a grandson. They were on their way home after a visit with their grandchild when the crash took place, according to family members and friends.

The fatal crash occurred shortly after state police pursued a vehicle in the southbound lanes until it crashed near the Kittery-York border. The pursuit began after police received at least six complaints about a driver who was erratically operating a white pickup truck towing a U-Haul trailer, according to the state police.


Three police officers suffered minor injuries and two cruisers were damaged during the chase and apprehension of the driver of the pursued vehicle.

Trooper Lee Vanadestine saw the pickup and began to pursue it when it failed to stop and continued at high speeds through three lanes of traffic, police said. Vanadestine attempted to end the chase by ramming the trailer, but lost control of his cruiser and crashed into the guardrail on the median, said Katy England, a spokesperson for Maine State Police.

Vanadestine’s cruiser was disabled and he sustained minor injuries. Trooper Jarrot MacKinnon continued the pursuit and a Kittery police officer attempted to deploy spike mats to disable the vehicle, but was unsuccessful, according to police.

The pickup then rammed into a Kittery police lieutenant’s cruiser, which was parked in the mile 4.5 crossover in an attempt to assist with the pursuit, England said. Lt. John Desjardins, who was still in the cruiser, received minor injuries.

Police identified the driver of the pickup as 49-year-old David Stoddard of Topsham. He was taken into custody and transported to York Hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

Stoddard will be charged with elevated aggravated assault, aggravated reckless conduct, aggravated driving to endanger and eluding, according to police.

The injured officers were treated and released.

The fatal crash involving the truck that failed to slow for traffic remains under investigation. Police say speed and alcohol do not appear to be factors. Once the investigation is complete, it will be reviewed by the York County District Attorney’s Office.

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