PALMYRA — Edelgard Phelps of Palmyra was just leaving her living room Monday night when a large explosion stopped her in her tracks.
“I looked back, and there it was — a tire hanging in midair,” she said, shaking visibly from the experience a day later. “The glass — it came down like rain.”
Phelps felt lucky to be alive Tuesday morning after the harrowing experience that left shattered glass, a broken window frame and a truck tire in the middle of her living room.
Phelps and her husband, Raymond Phelps, have lived on Oxbow Road, Route 100, in Palmyra for 37 years and never experienced anything like the freak accident that disrupted a quiet evening at home.
Complaining Tuesday morning of fatigue and weakness, Phelps, 63, told how a loose truck tire and wheel came crashing through her living room window. Only minutes before she had been in her usual spot on the couch directly next to the damaged window.
“It’s a miracle,” she said with a hesitant smile. “God took care of that one. I’m not a churchgoing person, but I think my eyes are open now.”
The woman left her seat on the couch before the tire from a passing pickup truck crashed through her window. She was writing at a desk on the opposite wall when she decided to go outside for some fresh air.
“I could hear the wind, like a storm was coming quickly,” she said. “I got to the kitchen and looked back. And there it [the tire] was.”
Brent Seekins, 25, of Pittsfield was driving northbound on Route 100 about 7:30 p.m. in a 1991 Nissan pickup he had purchased four hours before. The left front tire and wheel came off the truck, traveled more than 200 feet toward the ditch and onto the Phelps’ lawn.
The tire continued across the lawn, struck an antique sled, zipped past a flower garden, narrowly missed the side of a large cabin tent, ripped a piece of nylon mesh fencing from a tent pole, and went airborne — careening into the side of the building and window frame and exploding into the house.
“My ears — it felt like a bomb,” the German-born woman said trying to describe the noise and shock of the incident. “I don’t know how I got out of there.”
Childhood memories of World War II in her homeland caused the woman to fear she was being attacked, according to her husband. She was still hearing unexplained noises the day after the accident.
Neither Seekins, his passengers or dogs in the truck were injured in the accident. He was able to stop the truck across the street from the Phelps’ home.
“I think I stopped a car,” Phelps said, explaining her uncertainty about events after the incident.
A man stopped to help, but could not get into the Phelps house to call for help. When the woman left her home, she closed the door and it locked behind her.
Seekins also came to Phelps’ aid.
“I think I told him [Seekins], `There’s a tire in my living room. You look like you need one,”‘ Phelps said, trying to jog her memory of the evening’s events.
Raymond Phelps was not home at the time of the accident, but returned to find his wife visibly disoriented and his living room floor and furniture covered with debris and glass that spread into the adjacent kitchen.
The glass was still in place Tuesday morning when the couple returned to meet a cleanup crew.
“You can’t sit down,” Edelgard Phelps explained. “It’s everywhere. We can’t stay here.”
The couple stayed at a nearby motel Monday night and expected to remain there until the damage was repaired.
The lug nuts on Seekins’ truck tire were loose, according to Somerset County Deputy Mike Spaulding. The tire simply came off as the pickup was driving north on Route 100, Spaulding said.
Emergency personnel from Newport Rescue, the Sebasticook Valley Hospital ambulance, and the Hartland-St. Albans ambulance responded to the scene. Edelgard Phelps was taken to SVH to be examined at her own request because of her weakened condition.
Seekins could not be reached to comment on the freak accident. No information was available about where Seekins had bought the truck.
News reporter Brenda Seekins is no relation to Brent Seekins, the driver of the pickup.