Waldo County's Bermuda Triangle

By John Ford Jr. | Apr 01, 2010
John Ford Sr.

As I scan through the diaries reliving the time I spent cruising around the district, there is an area of highway in Searsmont along Route 3 where I witnessed more than a fair share of tragedies.

This stretch of highway, shorter than a half-mile, is where five people died in separate and rather violent incidents during my law enforcement career.

I tried to keep such incidents as far out of my mind as possible but, unfortunately, responding to them was a part of my duty to assist other agencies on calls that required an immediate response. Every available law enforcement officer headed to the scene to help.

I regarded this portion of highway as my personal version of Waldo County's Bermuda Triangle.

Even today as I travel this route, I relive those moments of carnage along the rural stretch of country road.

Granted, I covered far more than my fair share of deaths during my 20-year warden's career, but never so many in such a small area.

The first incident was a motor-vehicle accident. For some unknown reason, the male operator veered off the highway and struck a large tree head-on. The violent crash crumpled the dash around his legs and pinned him inside the truck. The vehicle burst into flames shortly after the collision.

A passerby, who was the first person on scene, desperately pried at the doors of the flaming inferno trying to free the semi-conscious man from the wreckage. But it was to no avail.

Sadly, the fire quickly spread, totally consuming the operator. Witnesses described it as a painful and violent death, and they were visibly shaken after hearing the victim futilely beg them to “please put him out of his misery before he burned to death.”

There was absolutely nothing they could have done differently at that point except to stand back and watch in horror.

God bless our rescue personnel for the thankless tasks they are expected to perform on a daily basis.

I assisted Belfast Fire Chief Jim Richards and other emergency personnel with dousing the remaining flames and removing the burned corpse from the wreckage.

These dedicated folks routinely respond to such calls only to return home that evening to deal in their own way with the carnage. They deserve far more credit than they get.

Thankfully, most of the violent carnage I routinely covered involved scraping a dead animal's carcass off the highway. None of it was nearly as traumatizing and personal as what these folks were forced to deal with.

A few weeks after this accident, an elderly gentleman was killed crossing the highway while returning from his mailbox on the opposite side of the road. This incident happened within sight of where the fiery fatal crash had just occurred.

The old fellow never heard the speeding car bearing down upon him, and he wheeled around and stepped directly into its path.

A few months later, several of us were back in the area after a female was shot and killed inside a home.

An estranged wife, in a fit of anger and depression, fired a couple of shots through the front door of the small house, as her husband and his girlfriend sought shelter underneath a stairway. The bullets slammed through the front door, striking the girlfriend in the chest and instantly killing her.

Law enforcement personnel swarmed the area and Maine State Police Trooper Stan Cunningham eventually took the shooter into custody. I assisted Maine State Police Lt. Rex Kelley reconstruct and photograph the scene, investigate the incident and retrieve the spent cartridges from the firearm used in this crime, utilizing a new metal detector I'd recently purchased.

And thus it was, the third tragic death all within a half-mile of each other.

Years later, a young fellow with whom I was acquainted was at a late-night party a short distance from this spot. Several folks were celebrating the early arrival of spring along a nearby stream flowing into Quantabacook Lake.

In the darkness, my friend and a female companion decided to go for a canoe ride down the stream and out onto Quantabacook Lake.

During their paddle on the pond, the canoe capsized. She was able to swim to shore, but he was not found until a few days later by warden divers combing the bottom of the lake.

Yet another tragedy.

The deaths continued here long after I retired from my warden's career and assumed the role as county sheriff.

Patrol deputies responded to an incident along the camp road where the drowning victim's body had been recovered. This time, a highly depressed young man parked his vehicle at the boat landing. A suicide note inside the vehicle provided directions as to where his body could be found. He then headed into the nearby woods, where he ended his life with a small-caliber firearm.

My so-called version of Waldo County's Bermuda Triangle certainly had violently claimed more than its share of deaths within this half-mile geography.

To this day, I still get an uneasy feeling as I cruise along Route 3 and recall those incidents where so many lives abruptly ended.

These memories from the diaries certainly were not the ones I wanted to keep. But sadly, along with the good of my profession, came the bad. It was the nature of the beast.

Someone had to respond to these calls. I was thankful it wasn't an everyday occurrence for me.

Once again, I remind those of you reading this column to take the time to thank those in your communities who routinely respond to these types of tragedies. Give them a nod of appreciation. They perform a service that most folks would never comprehend – and they deserve a lot of credit for their dedication, effort and sacrifice.

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