AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A pre-winter coating of black ice on northern New England roads and highways caused several traffic accidents and at least two deaths on Friday.
Maine state police said the morning’s rush hour brought a rash of accidents on ice-slicked roads throughout the southern part of the state, and police in Vermont reported accidents on icy patches in Rockingham, Westminster and Danville between Thursday evening and Friday morning. No serious injuries resulted from those accidents.
But in Alton, a 90-minute drive northeast of Augusta, an SUV hit black ice in foggy conditions on a bridge on Friday morning, causing it to crash into a tree, roll over and burst into flames along Interstate 95, killing a woman and seriously injuring her boyfriend.
The driver, 24-year-old Jesi Rai Burleigh, of Lincoln, died, and her boyfriend, 38-year-old Anthony Dupuis, of Greenbush, was hospitalized in intensive care.
Black ice also was blamed for an accident early Thursday morning on Route 108 near the Peru-Rumford town line: A car hit a patch of black ice, went out of control and crashed, ejecting driver Jake Pomeroy, of Dixfield, and killing him. A pickup truck trying to avoid the accident also crashed, injuring the driver, who was treated at a hospital.
In Hermon, a pickup truck hit a patch of black ice in a low-lying area, left the road and rolled over late Thursday, killing a mother and injuring her daughter, police said. The driver, Retha Thomas, 50, died, Penobscot County Chief Deputy Troy Morton said. Her 18-year-old daughter, Brooke Thomas-Soper, sustained non-life threatening injuries. Thomas had recently moved to her daughter’s home in Levant.
The black-ice accidents prompted Maine state Trooper Darren Vittum to offer some advice to motorists.
‘‘When you’re coming up to the overpass, definitely slow down, take your foot off the accelerator because they’re the first things that freeze up this time of year,’’ said Vittum, who investigated the Alton crash. ‘‘Just coast over them instead of being under power.’’
Weather conditions during the hours of darkness weren’t expected to improve much in the region, forecasters said. In northern New Hampshire and Maine’s mountains, rain Friday night was expected to turn to snow showers early Saturday. Farther south and at lower elevations, scattered showers were possible after midnight. There was a slight chance of showers in Vermont late Friday.