If it weren’t for the tail light

Thu, 11/19/2020 - 4:45pm

    ROCKLAND — At least 10 minutes went by during a search for a reported motor vehicle crash on Payne Avenue, in Rockland, before an off-duty firefighter noticed the flash of a tail light in a dense wooded area.

    Had it not been for that sighting, the search perimeter may have grown infinitely wider as police, fire/EMS, and others combed the area for a vehicle with no exact location.

    Wednesday evening, Nov. 18, shortly after 7:30 p.m., Knox Regional Communications Center received a call from OnStar, reporting a crash on Payne Ave.

    The technician’s coordinates greatly narrowed down the vicinity, but with nothing visibly amiss on that stretch of Route 1, the search field widened before, and then after, an officer spotted vehicle debris and skid marks through the parking lot of Matheson Tri-Gas. 

    “We checked everything from Pen Bay Glass all the way up to Dominos Pizza, figuring that if it wasn’t obvious and evident where it was, that it was going to be somewhere close by but off the beaten path,” said Rockland Fire Chief Chris Whytock. “We were checking behind buildings, in parking lots, behind the railroad tracks.”

    The police went further, driving the length of Payne, turning around at the Thomaston town line. 

    With the debris as proof that an accident actual took place, Rockland PD alerted Thomaston and Rockport to be on the lookout for a possibly fleeing driver, passing along the vehicle description and license plate number provided by OnStar. Yet, the true search remained close by.

    Every once in a while emergency responders are dispatched to an “in the area of” call, according to Whytock. Often, it is from people who are not from Rockland and do not know exactly where they are.

    “But this one, it was pretty specific in that OnStar stated that they were on Payne Ave and near the rear of Matheson’s,” he said.

    And so they searched, until the wisp of a light led the way to a vehicle on its side with significant front-end and rear-end damage in the woods between Matheson’s and E.L. Spear Hardware.  

    “It was just thick enough were the car was sitting in there, and low enough that if you weren’t in just the right spot, you wouldn’t see it,” said Whytock.

    The driver, Damien Harbor, self-extricated from the vehicle before the crash site was found. When he was found, he declined EMS attention. He was subsequently arrested and charged with OUI. 

    Knox County Sheriff’s deputies assisted Rockland PD.


    Reach Sarah Thompson at news@penbaypilot.com