Acadia National Park rangers direct traffic away from the scene of a fatal auto accident Tuesday afternoon. ISLANDER PHOTO BY MARK GOOD

Driver charged in fatal crash

BAR HARBOR — A man from Virginia was arrested Tuesday afternoon after his pickup struck and killed a Bar Harbor woman walking in the parking lot of The Chart Room restaurant in Hulls Cove.

The driver, Justin Shell, 36, of Harrisonburg, Va., was charged with manslaughter and driving to endanger.

The victim, 76-year-old Connie Birkenmeier, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Shell was treated for injuries that were not life-threatening at Mount Desert Island Hospital, arrested and booked into the Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth. He was expected to appear before a judge Wednesday afternoon for a bail hearing.

According to police, Shell was westbound on Route 3 when his 2016 Dodge Ram pickup veered off the road and into the restaurant parking lot, where it struck a parked vehicle and Birkenmeier before continuing on to hit several other unoccupied vehicles and the restaurant itself.

The accident, which occurred shortly before noon, remains under investigation. A section of Route 3 near the scene was closed for about four hours while police conducted an accident reconstruction.

Police declined to comment about why Shell was charged and referred questions to the Hancock County District Attorney’s Office. Foster, in an email Wednesday morning, said the charges are based on statements Shell made after the accident.

Foster said Shell, who was traveling alone, acknowledged “he had been driving for an extended period and was very tired and had considered pulling over to sleep but decided not to do so and kept driving.” Shell left Virginia on Monday, stayed overnight in Connecticut and, on Tuesday, drove to Fort Kent and Calais before visiting Bar Harbor.

“There may also have been a medical event that contributed to the crash, but the state feels that Mr. Shell made a (very poor) decision, knowing he was tired, to keep driving,” Foster wrote. “The state believes that decision was reckless and, in fact, caused the tragic death of the victim.”

Foster said police found no mechanical defects that might have caused Shell to lose control of the truck. The district attorney’s office is awaiting the results from a blood draw taken as required of a driver in a fatal motor vehicle accident to see if alcohol or drugs might have been a factor.

Shell’s “reckless conduct” and the fact he has no ties to Maine led to the decision to charge the Virginia man immediately, Foster said.

Bar Harbor and Mount Desert police were assisted by the Bar Harbor Fire Department, Public Works Department, Acadia National Park rangers and the Ellsworth Police Department.

Updated on Sept. 13 at 12:25 p.m.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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