February 2004

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February 5, 2004

Gov. Baldacci injured in interstate crash

The governor credits seat belt for saving his life

Gov. Baldacci suffered a mild concussion, a broken rib and bruises.
Gov. John Baldacci credited his seat belt for saving him from serious injury in a crash on Interstate 295 in Bowdoinham yesterday morning.

Baldacci and his Maine State Police bodyguard, Detective James Trask, were on their way to Portland in Baldacci’s state-issued SUV when Trask lost control while passing a car driven by Timothy Putnam, a 53-year-old from Richmond, at about 6:10 a.m. The SUV, a Chevrolet Suburban, apparently hit a patch of ice and struck Putnam’s car. Putnam’s car ended up in the median while Baldacci’s SUV spun around several times before leaving the road and flipping over in a grove of trees.

Baldacci, 48, suffered a broken rib, a mild concussion and bruises, according to The Associated Press. He and Trask, 41, were taken by ambulance to Maine Medical Center in Portland. Doctors performed a CAT scan on Baldacci and planned to keep him overnight for observation. But Baldacci checked himself out of the hospital at about 6:30 p.m. and returned to the Blaine House in Augusta in an unmarked police car.

Doctors listed Trask in stable condition. Putnam was not injured.

Baldacci was on his way to a speaking engagement before the Greater Portland Chambers of Commerce.

“The governor relates remembering the roller coaster, as he describes it, and thanking heavens that he was wearing his seat belt the whole time,” Dr. Brad Cushing, director of trauma surgery at Maine Medical, said in a news conference.

Witnesses of the accident said that Baldacci and Trask wandered in and out of consciousness.

Baldacci’s wife, Karen, and brother Bob visited him in the hospital before Baldacci left. Maine’s congressional delegation, the White House and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry contacted Baldacci at the hospital to express concern for his condition.

In recent weeks, two teen-agers died in car crashes because they weren’t wearing a seat belt. A 19-year-old Trenton man was killed in that town on Jan. 22 when he lost control, in slush, of the Dodge Caravan he was driving and a car struck the van in the side. The man wasn’t wearing a seat belt. On Saturday, a 16-year-old Bangor girl not wearing a seat belt died after being thrown from a Nissan Pathfinder that hit a telephone pole.

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