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June 15, 2013

Trek Across Maine bicyclist killed by tractor-trailer

It's unclear what led up to the accident that claimed the life of the 23-year-old bike rider during the event's first day.

By Matt Byrne mbyrne@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

HANOVER — Hundreds of bicyclists who began the annual Trek Across Maine on Friday were shocked by the death of a rider who apparently fell and was run over by a tractor-trailer just a few miles from the starting point.

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State police move a bike that was involved in a fatal crash in Hanover on Friday. David LeClair, a 23-year-old cyclist from Watertown, Mass., was struck by a tractor-trailer just miles from the starting point of the annual Trek Across Maine cycling event.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

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David LeClair, 23, is shown in an undated photo from the Athena Health corporate team web page. He was struck and killed by a tractor trailer this morning shortly before 9 a.m. near Hanover in Oxford County while he was participating in a charity bike ride, according to police.

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David LeClair, 23, of Watertown, Mass., was killed almost instantly about 8:45 a.m. as the truck passed him on Route 2 in the Oxford County town of Hanover, said Maine State Police.

News of the accident spread as cyclists arrived Friday afternoon at their overnight stop at the University of Maine at Farmington. Some expressed surprise that it could happen on such a well-marked route traveled by so many cyclists in the fundraiser for the American Lung Association.

Riders said law enforcement, volunteers and clear signs are positioned along the 180-mile route throughout the three-day ride, warning drivers to watch for cyclists.

Terri Brown, 23, a first-time participant from Brunswick, was surprised by the accident, considering the enormous effort of organizers to direct traffic around the riders.

"There are so many volunteers and cops out there. You can't not know to drive slow and watch out, because there are like thousands of bikers out there," she said.

John Harris, 73, of South Bristol said drivers have always been willing to share the road and brake for riders in the 10 years he has ridden in the trek, which draws about 2,000 cyclists and this year has raised $1.35 million.

He said people guide vehicles around the participants at all major intersections. "I've never felt threatened by a car."

The 29th annual trek began Friday morning with riders leaving from the Sunday River ski resort, bound for the overnight layover in Farmington, a 53-mile ride away. The ride ends Sunday in Belfast.

Officers said the truck and the cyclists were going east when the accident occurred. LeClair may have fallen off the bike before he was killed, although it's not yet clear what might have caused him to fall.

His death is this year's first bicycle fatality in Maine, according to law enforcement.

Police stopped a truck miles away in Rumford that they believe was involved, said state police Lt. Walter Grzyb. The name of the driver was not released Friday. A man who climbed down from the cab declined to be interviewed.

The tractor-trailer is owned by Transport Beauregard Inc., based in Quebec. Serge Beauregard, who operates the Canadian transport company, did not return a call requesting information about the driver's experience, safety record or length of service.

"Part of this investigation is to look closely at his driving log and hours of operation, making sure he's in compliance and making sure his truck is safe," Grzyb said. "We believe we have the truck. We're going to have to do some additional investigation to confirm this is the truck."

Investigators are examining whether the wind generated by the passing truck upset LeClair's bicycle, which apparently was undamaged.

Truck drivers must comply with federal rules that govern how many hours they are allowed to drive without sleep.

Grzyb said the driver told police he was not aware that an accident had happened, which Grzyb said is common when large trucks are involved in such accidents.

Police are asking for riders' help in gathering any video footage that may have captured the accident. Route 2, a major route connecting western Maine with New Hampshire and points east, is traveled by many commercial vehicles.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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A member of the Maine State Police commercial vehicle inspection unit talks to the driver, name unknown, of the tractor-trailer police believe was involved in the fatal accident in Hanover on Friday.

Photo by David Hench / Staff Writer

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Photo shows the tractor-trailer police believe was involved in the accident that killed bicyclist David LeClair, 23, in Hanover on Friday.

Photo by David Hench / Staff Writer

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Maine State Police Trooper Joe Bureau inspects the rear tire of a Canadian truck police suspect was involved in Friday's fatal bicycle accident in Hanover.

David Hench / Staff Writer

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State police move the bike that was involved in a fatal crash in Hanover on Friday.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

  


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