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Insufficient Brake Fluid Blamed for 4th of July Fatal Accident Involving Antique Fire Truck

Bangor Police Department
Bangor Police Department

The investigation into a fatal accident on the 4th of July has determined that insufficient brake fluid in the antique fire truck was at fault. The collision report and subsequent investigation report were released by the city today.

The report states that both vehicles, the 1930 McCann Fire Truck and the 1941 John Deere Farm Tractor are antiques and so are not required to pass yearly inspections. The sequence of events on that day contributed to the accident but, ultimately the brakes failed and that was the cause of the crash.

The parade route was changed that day due to a standoff with police when an armed man was firing out the window of his Park Street apartment. Because of the danger to spectators, the parade route was shifted to turn off Main Street in Bangor and onto Water Street. This meant a steeper grade than parade participants usually had to deal with.

When Wallace Fenlason turned his antique tractor onto Water Street, investigators say he stopped because the units in front of him had stopped. Off-duty firefighter Patrick Heathcote attempted to stop the fire truck, but the brakes failed. The truck struck the rear of the tractor and caused it to fall over.

Fenlason was ejected from the tractor and was killed instantly when the firetruck ran over him. Investigators say they could see an imprint of the brake pedal in the floorboard where Heathcote had applied as much pressure as he could to try and stop the fire truck. Both vehicles were reportedly traveling at just under 2 miles per hour, at the same rate as the other parade participants.

The report lists the cause of the accident as brake failure on the antique firetruck. They found that, unless he was solely responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the fire truck, he could not have prevented the accident.

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