The accident that seriously injured author Stephen King last June as he walked along the shoulder of a road near his summer home in Lovell was voted the top Maine news story of the year.
King underwent a series of operations after suffering multiple broken bones and a collapsed lung when he was struck by a minivan whose driver said he was distracted when his dog tried to get into a cooler.
The driver, Bryan Smith, of Fryeburg, is awaiting trial on charges of aggravated assault and driving to endanger.
The top stories of the year were selected in a poll of Associated Press member newspapers and broadcast stations in Maine.
The runner-up was the November referendum in which voters, by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent, rejected a citizen-initiated bill to outlaw so-called partial birth abortions.
By an even wider margin, the electorate approved an initiative to legalize the use of marijuana for certain medical conditions. Leaders of the campaign said their next step would be to try to work with government officials to develop a system for distributing the drug.
The No. 3 story was the sale of CMP Group — the parent of Central Maine Power Co. — to Energy East for $957 million.
The changes, which coincided with CMP’s 100th anniversary, reflect the state’s move toward deregulation of the electric utility industry, which takes effect March 1.
The Legislature’s enactment of a restaurant smoking ban, putting Maine among a small group of states that bar patrons from lighting up when eating out, ranked No. 4. While health officials applauded the move, a handful of restaurateurs sought to get around the law by converting their eateries to private clubs.
The July breaching of the Edwards Dam, which opened a 17-mile section of the Kennebec River north of Augusta to Atlantic salmon and other fish, was hailed by conservationists as a precedent-setting milestone.
The 162-year-old dam was the nation’s first to be torn down by government order under a policy that weighs power needs against environmental considerations. The story was voted fifth.
The Maine Black Bears won their second NCAA hockey championship last April, defeating New Hampshire 3-2 in an overtime thriller in Anaheim, Calif.; a story ranked sixth. Maine first won the title in 1993 and was banned from the NCAA tournament in 1996 and 1997 for violating recruiting and other rules.
The No. 7 story was the rash of bomb threats that disrupted schools across Maine, prompting some districts to call off classes for up to a week. With the nation rocked by the shootings at Colorado’s Columbine High School, officials put in place tight security, including armed police and metal detectors at school entrances.
Some of Maine’s most familiar corporate names were swept up in mergers, a story ranked eighth.
UNUM completed its merger with another disability insurance giant to become UNUMProvident, while Hannaford Bros. was being acquired by the parent of Food Lion while Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maine became the latest target of Indiana-based Anthem Insurance Cos.
The No. 9 story was the conviction of a Florida man arrested on DNA evidence for the 1976 murder of a nurse who was abducted from a Waterville parking lot, raped and found shot to death. Albert Cochran, 61, was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Rounding out the top 10 was the phaseout of reformulated gasoline containing high levels of the additive MTBE, which was used in seven southern Maine counties to help the state meet federal clean air standards. Several incidents of MTBE contamination in ground water prompted officials to substitute it with another variety of gasoline.
Stories that narrowly missed being listed among the top 10 included:
The murders of two men in Lebanon by a New York state man who then abducted his estranged wife.
The Legislature’s approval of a 3-cent a gallon increase in Maine’s gasoline tax to help fund highway progams.
The spate of air rage incidents that forced jetliners to make unscheduled stops in Bangor.