January 7

New Vineyard accident victim ‘had nowhere to go’ as oncoming van veered into her lane

Samantha Wright, of Kingfield, a member of the family that owns Wright Place dairy farm in Clinton, was killed in Monday’s crash.

By Doug Harlow dharlow@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

NEW VINEYARD — A preschool teacher from Kingfield who was killed Monday afternoon in a head-on collision had nowhere to go when an oncoming van veered into her lane, police said Tuesday.

Samantha Wright, 38, married and with a young daughter, died at the scene on Route 27, Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols said. Her family owns a farm, The Wright Place, in Clinton.

Craig Gage, 23, of Saco, driving an Econoline van south, drifted onto the ice-covered right side of the road and then over-compensated to the left into the northbound lane, striking Wright’s 1999 Dodge minivan, according to Nichols. Wright couldn’t go off the road because of a guardrail, Nichols said.

“There’s nothing she could have done to have avoided the accident — she had nowhere to go,” Nichols said. “Between her lane and him coming at her and to her immediate right was a guardrail. She couldn’t have run off anywhere. She was hemmed in and it was just an awful circumstance to be in. She was killed instantly. It was pretty traumatic.”

On Tuesday, family members and friends said “Sammy” Wright was a loving, positive person and expressed sorrow for her husband and young daughter’s loss.

Former co-workers at a regional park in Skowhegan where she once worked recalled her wit and wisdom.

Family members declined to take calls Tuesday, but posted Monday night on Facebook: “It is with a sad and heavy heart that we announce the passing of one of our own, Samantha Wright.

“In her 38 years on this earth she lived more of a life than most people ever get to. She was a loving wife and mother and a wonderful school teacher. She was the kind of person that never met a stranger, very social, positive and upbeat. If you were lucky enough to have ever met Samantha, then you were lucky enough. Her smile lit up a room and her laughter was contagious. She will be missed by a great number of people.”

Wright was executive director and head teacher at Maine Mountain Children’s House, a nonprofit Montessori preschool program based in Kingfield.

The 2 p.m. accident, which happened south of the intersection with Holly Road, closed the state route for more than two hours.

Gage was treated and released within a couple hours of the accident with minor injuries, Nichols said. There were no passengers in either vehicle.

He said that section of Route 27 north of the accident scene is straight, flat and dry, but the road curves into an area that is shaded by trees and can be icy.

“If you’re somebody who’s not used to the road and you think it’s fine and you’re doing the normal speed limit then all of a sudden you hit that patch, you hit ice and even at the regular speed limit, you can lose control,” Nichols said.

Nichols said the accident investigator, Deputy Matthew Brann, is retracing Wright’s and Gage’s previous 24 hours, which is typical in a fatal accident.

Gage was driving a 2006 Ford E250 van owned by National Distributors Inc. of South Portland, Nichols said.

A former resident of South Carolina, Gage has been a driver for National Distributors since August 2012, according to his Facebook page.

Bob Hubbard, the original park ranger at Lake George Regional Park in Skowhegan and Canaan, recalled her fondly on Tuesday.

Hubbard hired Wright to work the gate at the park. Her father, Sam Wright, who’d retired from active dairy farming, already mowed lawns at the park as a volunteer.

“She was smart, quick, accurate and a very wise person — one of the best people that ever worked for me,” said Hubbard, who retired last year after 20 years at the park.

(Continued on page 2)

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