(ME)(6-8-2021) Firefighter Struck by Pickup while Directing Traffic

A Washington County firefighter who was handling traffic control by the site of a tractor-trailer fire was hit by a pickup truck passing through the scene, breaking his leg and wrist.

Richard Zielinski, 75, is recovering from his injuries at a Bangor hospital, Fire Chief Lee Philbrook said. His injuries are not considered life-threatening, he said.

Zielinski was handling traffic for the Wesley Volunteer Fire Department on Route 9 when the pickup truck hit him. The fire department in rural Washington County is used to close calls with passing vehicles at roadside scenes, Philbrook said.

Zielinski was struck around 8:45 p.m., as darkness was rapidly falling, although he was wearing appropriate safety gear, the fire chief said. He had a baton with a flashing red LED light, a helmet with a light and reflective strips, and a reflective vest.

The driver of the pickup truck was traveling east at about 55 mph, which is the speed limit on the section of highway where the firefighters were working, Philbrook said. The semi-truck had caught fire near where Pembroke Stream flows under the highway — "literally out in the middle of nowhere," he said.

The pickup truck driver was coming around a "long, sweeping" curve and had about 1,000 feet of visibility to where Zielinski stood, he said. But the driver wasn't paying attention, the fire chief said, and didn't see the firefighter until he was about 100 feet away. Zielinski tried to get out of the way but was unable to.

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