A Maine State Police trooper was killed Wednesday morning when a tire flew off a tractor-trailer and hit him while he was helping a motorist with a disabled vehicle on the side of Interstate 95 south in Hampden, officials said.
Detective Ben Campbell, 31, an Easthampton, Mass., native, was pronounced dead at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine, after the accident, Maine State Police Colonel John Cote said at an emotional press conference Wednesday afternoon in Bangor. Campbell would have been 32 on Monday.
“Ben Campbell was one of our very best and well-liked,” Cote said. “This is gonna be a loss.”
Campbell was on his way to a training session when he saw a car that had spun out on I-95 in Hampden, partially blocking the road, Cote said.
When Campbell was standing outside of his unmarked car with blue lights on, a six-axle log truck/tractor-trailer combo drove by and two of the wheels flew off the truck, Cote said. One of the wheels struck Campbell, he said.
“’Bizarre’ is the only word I can think of, and it’s just really left every one of us just shaking our head,” Cote said. “It defies explanation.”
Campbell suffered “grave” injuries and was later pronounced dead at the hospital, Cote said.
The truck driver, Scott Willett, 52, of Patten, Maine, stopped at the scene and is working with investigators, Cote said. The truck is also being investigated to look at why the wheels flew off, he said.
Campbell is survived by his wife, Hilary, and his 6-month-old son, Everett, of Millinocket, Maine.
“He was so proud and loved her so much,” Cote said, referring to how Campbell lit up when he introduced people to his wife.
“Our efforts now are going to focus on supporting them and helping through this unspeakable grief that they are going through right now,” he added.
Campbell joined the Maine State Police in 2012 as a trooper assigned to Troop E, Cote said. Campbell was promoted in 2016 to detective as a member of the State Police polygraph unit, he said. Campbell was a graduate of Westfield State University in Westfield, Mass.
Cote said Campbell saw the good in people in different situations and was very caring.
“That’s why he stopped today,” Cote said. “That’s why, although he was headed to be an instructor at a training assignment, he didn’t hesitate. He saw that person there in need of assistance and that became his priority: assisting that person, protecting them from potential impact, and he didn’t know any other way to do it.”
The details on Campbell’s funeral service have not yet been determined, but Cote said that Campbell’s family wants full line-of-duty honors. Campbell will be transported in a procession Wednesday night to the medical examiner’s office in Augusta, Cote said.
“This will be a day that every member of this agency remembers,” Cote said. “These are our friends, our colleagues, our classmates, and it cuts deep.”
Campbell’s death is the first line-of-duty death for the Maine State Police since Detective Glenn Strange died in 1997 from a heart attack several days after getting punched during a car chase in Houlton, Maine, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.