Truck Driver Under Criminal Investigation After “Freak Accident” Kills Police Officer
Bangor, Maine – A truck driver and a mechanic are under new scrutiny after an investigation by Maine State Police (MSP) found multiple defects with a tractor-trailer involved in the death of a police officer in April.
State Police Detective Ben Campbell, 31, was killed April 3, 2019, along Interstate 95 after being struck by a wheel that broke off of a logging truck.
The incident occurred just after 7:30 a.m. when Campbell pulled over to the side of the roadway to assist a stranded motorist during a snowstorm in Hampden, Maine.
That’s when investigators say two wheels came off the trailer of a passing logging truck.
One rolled into the highway median and the other struck Campbell, according to MSP.
MSP Col. John Cote described the incident at the time as a “freak accident,” but the findings of MSP’s investigation, which were released last Friday, are raising new questions about the truck’s driver and mechanic who performed inspections on the rig.
Technician Maurice Gray, of Timberland Trucking, gave the logging truck new inspection stickers 27 days before the accident that killed Campbell, according to MSP’s findings.
“The tractor and trailer did not receive a full and thorough inspection as required,” Cote said during a press conference last Friday. “The inadequate inspection was not the result of systemic failures at the station but was a failure of the inspection mechanic to properly inspect the truck and tractor.”
Gray’s license was suspended for six months and was issued the week of the accident, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.
Cote said Timberland Trucking has an excellent record as a state inspection agency, but was issued a warning due to the incident.
MSP’s findings didn’t just find blame with Gray though.
Investigators also found that a week after Gray’s inspection, the faulty wheels had new tires mounted on them at Bangor Tire Co. 2 in Hermon.
MSP found that no one noticed the poor condition of the faulty wheels at that time.
Cote said inspectors at the accident site focused their investigation on the axle where the wheels broke off.
All 10 lug bolts were sheared off at the hub, Cote said.
Further, inspectors found one lug bolt alongside the highway with its lug nut still attached.
Cote explained that the wheels’ hub pilots “were cracked, broken and bent, which allowed the wheels to begin moving [off the hub], resulting in the pilots failing and the lug bolts shearing.”
However, inspectors found the lug nuts were screwed on tightly.
“Wheel separation was not a result of loose or missing lug nuts,” Cote said MSP concluded.
Cote also alleged the driver of the truck, 52-year-old Scott Willett, of Patten, failed to keep adequate maintenance records.
Investigators said Willett, after realizing his wheels had broken off, pulled to the side of the interstate that day.
MSP said Willett assisted a state trooper in performing CPR on Campbell in an effort to save his life.
MSP forwarded their findings to Penobscot County District Attorney Marianne Lynch on May 13.
Lynch continues to review the case to determine whether criminal charges are warranted against anyone involved.
Transportation Nation Network will continue to follow any new developments.