ORONO – Driving rain contributed to an accident on Interstate 95 late Sunday afternoon that took the life of a Plymouth man and added to an already high number of fatal crashes in Maine this month.
Lawrence E. Smith, 50, was driving northbound on I-95 just north of the Kelley Road exit in Orono when he hydroplaned and lost control, Maine State Police Trooper Darren Vittum said at the scene.
Smith, who was not wearing a seat beat, was ejected from the vehicle and ended up underneath his 1997 GMC pickup, which spun around and stopped in the median. He died at the scene.
A passenger, Mark Lane, 57, of Newburgh, was wearing a seat belt and suffered a broken arm and other minor injuries, Vittum said. Lane was taken by ambulance to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.
Vittum said a witness saw Smith’s truck hydroplane and leave the roadway shortly after 4 p.m. Speed was not considered a factor, but troopers spent about two hours reconstructing the scene.
Asked whether Smith’s life could have been saved had he been wearing a seat belt, Vittum noted that his traveling companion escaped with only a broken arm.
Sunday’s fatality was the 18th in Maine so far this month, an average of about one each day. July and August typically see an increase in fatal accidents because there is more traffic on the road, according to police, but this July is on pace to be one of the deadliest months on record.
An accident early Friday morning on I-95 in Hampden killed a 22-year-old woman from Pittsfield. Police believe Whitney Hammond fell asleep and lost control of her 1998 Honda Civic and rolled over in the southbound lane of the interstate. A passenger, Karyn Young, 29, of Bangor, was taken by ambulance to EMMC and treated for serious injuries, but her condition was upgraded to fair on Saturday, according to a nursing supervisor at the hospital.
Neither woman was wearing a seat belt.
The worst month on record is December 2006, which saw 30 traffic deaths, according to the Maine Department of Transportation.