January 19, 2011

UPDATE: Benton woman identified in fatal crash

By Scott Monroe and David Leaming

UNITY TOWNSHIP — A Benton woman died this morning when her car was struck head-on by a pickup truck that veered into her lane on Route 139.

click image to enlarge

Frank Keithan of Troy speaks this morning with two injured occupants of a pickup truck that collided head-on with a car on Route 139 in Unity Township. The unidentified female driver of the car was killed.

Staff photo by David Leaming

Jessica Eldridge, 36, a mother of three, died at the scene of the crash, according to Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty. Two people in the truck suffered minor injuries.

“This is an unfortunate loss of life and our thoughts and prayers are with Jessica’s children and family,” Liberty said.

Liberty said Eldridge has children in first and ninth grades, and another attending college at the University of Maine.

Eldridge worked for School Administrative District 49, where she taught in an early childhood program for pre-schoolers at Fairfield Primary School, according to Dr. Dean Baker, superintendent of schools. Baker said Eldridge had been working in the program for more than a year.

“I have been told she was the contributing type of person in the educational community,” Baker said. “She had a reputation as a hard worker and leaves a large hole and will be sorely missed.”

The accident was reported at 8:55 a.m. on Unity Road, also Route 139, two miles west of the Unity town line. The township is located in Kennebec County.

Liberty said Eldridge’s 2011 Hyundai Accent was hit head-on by a 1996 GMC Sienna, driven by David Kimberlain, 20, of Windham.

Eldridge had been driving east when Kimberlain’s vehicle, heading west, failed to navigate a curve in the road. Kimberlain overcorrected and his truck veered into the eastbound lane, striking Eldridge’s car.

The collision left the two vehicles sandwiched together on one side of the road. Both vehicles were destroyed, Liberty said.

Eldridge suffered “extensive abdominal trauma,” according to Liberty, and attempts by rescue personnel at the scene to resuscitate her were unsuccessful.

Frank Keithan of Troy, who was among the first to arrive on scene, said he checked on the two injured people in the truck. They were bloodied, but conscious, he said.

Keithan said he also checked for a pulse on the female driver, later identified as Eldridge, who was slumped over the steering wheel.

“I felt for a pulse and did not feel anything,” Keithan said, as ambulances, firefighters and police began to arrive at the scene about 9 a.m. “It looked like a fire when I first saw the accident.”

Rescuers tended to the injured in the pickup truck through an open door and a broken rear window. Vehicle parts were scattered in the road 50 feet away.

Kimberlain suffered a broken leg and an unidentified male passenger in his truck had facial injuries. Both were taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center’s Thayer Campus in Waterville and were released later Wednesday.

“This accident appears to have been avoidable,” Liberty said. “Although road conditions were slushy earlier in the morning, that section of road was fairly clear, although wet.”

Kennebec Deputy Scott Cyrway led the investigation and Cpl. Michael Pion was reconstructing the accident.

Pion said all of the drivers were wearing seatbelts and airbags deployed in both vehicles. He said the investigation was ongoing and he hadn’t determined the speed of the vehicles.

That section of the road was closed to traffic for about three hours, Pion said.

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