Toll collector injured when car slams into booth, catches fire

·2 min read

Sep. 23—A Maine Turnpike toll collector was injured early Thursday when an alleged drunken driver crashed his car into a tollbooth on the Falmouth Spur.

Maine State Police said Ethan Chase, 22, of Durham was traveling east on the spur after taking Exit 52 when he lost control and crashed into the tollbooth. The impact of the crash caused the car to catch fire and heavily damaged a section of the tollbooth.

The shattered glass and debris from the crash hit John Schwabe, 46, of Westbrook, who was working at the tollbooth, said Shannon Moss, spokesperson for state police. Schwabe was taken to Maine Medical Center for treatment of lacerations on his head and face. He was later released and is home recovering, the Maine Turnpike Authority said.

Chase, who was not injured, was charged with aggravated operating under the influence after an initial investigation determined speed and alcohol were factors, Moss said. The crash remains under investigation.

The high-speed toll lanes were not impacted. The cash lanes had to be closed until around 4:30 p.m., when one lane was reopened.

Maine Turnpike Authority engineers and maintenance staff were at the toll plaza on Thursday to assess the damage, spokesperson Erin Courtney said. The overhead canopy was burned, but engineers say it is stable, she said.

Equipment related to toll taking, including cameras, was burned in the crash and there was damage to the concrete that identifies the classification of vehicles that drive over it. Courtney said the damage is estimated at around $500,000, and it could take weeks to reopen the damaged lane.

Courtney said the turnpike authority hopes to reopen that lane in time for the weekend of Oct. 22 when part of I-295 in Portland will be closed to replace the Veranda Street bridge. Exit 52 is part of the Maine Department of Transportation's detour plan, she said.

The tollbooths have concrete barriers in front of them that are designed to deflect cars to the side if they're going head-on into the booth.

"The best news of this whole ordeal is the collector made it home. ... We're really thankful that it turned out the way it did and the safety measures we have in place to protect people worked," Courtney said.

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