- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 11, 2004

CARMEL, Maine (AP) — A rented sport utility vehicle clipped a car it was trying to pass and veered out of control, killing seven persons inside, including four children, authorities said.

The Ford Explorer went airborne, slammed into trees in the highway’s median and landed on its roof Sunday. The accident happened on Interstate 95, about 10 miles west of Bangor in south-central Maine.

Two women and a child died when they were thrown from the SUV. The other four occupants — a woman and three children — died inside the vehicle. Troopers initially thought five persons died, but two more bodies were found when the SUV was lifted, authorities said.

The victims were from South Portland, and the four children were 8 or younger, said Stephen McCausland, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety.

The Explorer was rented from Hertz at the Portland International Jet Port earlier in the day.

“A lot of work still needs to be done as to retracing their footsteps and trying to determine what happened and why,” Mr. McCausland said yesterday.

The Explorer was trying to pass two cars at once when it clipped one, then turned sideways and became airborne, he said.

Firefighters used chain saws to cut down some of the trees in which the SUV was wedged so that it could be removed.

Troopers quoted witnesses as saying one car was in the travel lane and another was passing it in the passing lane when the Explorer came up quickly from behind.

“The Explorer came up initially at a high rate of speed in the passing lane and then veered into the breakdown lane and passed both, clipping one of them,” Mr. McCausland said.

Skid marks from the out-of-control SUV were visible across the roadway in both lanes, he said.

The crash was the deadliest on a Maine public road since seven occupants of a car were killed when it was broadsided and run over by a tractor-trailer in Richmond in September 1958.

The state’s worst crash happened on a privately owned logging road in September 2002, when 14 migrant workers perished after their van went off a bridge in the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.

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