Hampden, ME – Maine State Police (MSP) Detective Benjamin Campbell died in the line of duty on Wednesday morning, when he was struck by the detached wheel of a tractor-trailer as he was helping a stranded motorist on the side of the roadway.
The incident occurred at approximately 7:30 a.m. on Interstate 95, near mile marker 179 southbound, MSP Chief Colonel John Cote said during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
Det. Campbell, 31, was on his way to conduct a training session when he came across a vehicle that had “spun out” on the icy roadway, Col. Cote explained.
The disabled vehicle was partially obstructing the travel lane when Det. Campbell stopped to help the driver.
“That became his priority – assisting that person,” Col. Cote said. “He didn’t know any other way to do it.”
He parked his unmarked patrol SUV in an attempt to “shield” the victim’s vehicle from a potential secondary impact, and had his lights activated at the time.
Due to the vehicle’s location on the road and the adverse whether conditions, he requested another unit to respond to the scene.
“While that trooper was en route, a loaded, six-axle log truck tractor-trailer combination approached the scene where Detective Campbell was assisting that motorist,” Col. Cote explained.
“Unrelated to the roadside incident, in what I think can only be considered bizarre timing, two wheels separated from the tractor-trailer as it approached Detective Campbell and that vehicle,” he continued. “One of those wheels rolled harmlessly into the median. The other wheel rolled and struck Detective Campbell as he was outside of his vehicle in the breakdown lane.”
The tire continued to roll, and collided with the vehicle involved in the initial crash.
The veteran detective “received grave injuries as a result of the impact,” Col. Cote said, before pausing to collect his emotions. “And despite the best efforts of many EMS, fire, and police that responded to assist him, he would later succumb to his injuries.”
Det. Campbell was rushed to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, where he was pronounced dead.
The driver he stopped to assist was uninjured, but witnessed everything that occurred, Col. Cote said.
The 52-year-old tractor-trailer driver remained at the scene, and has cooperated with investigators, who are trying to determine how the wheels came detached from the trailer portion of the vehicle.
The unfortunate timing of all the “bizarre” aspects of the tragedy “defies explanation,” Col. Cote said.
“This has been a tough day…because we’ve lost one of our very best, and we’ve certainly lost one of Maine’s very best,” he told reporters. “This is going to be a loss…our job now is to take care of the family.”
Det. Campbell joined the MSP as a trooper in 2012, and was promoted to the rank of detective in 2016.
He was serving as a member of the MSP’s polygraph unit at the time of his death.
Col. Cote said that Det. Campbell excelled at polygraph examinations because his demeanor caused everyone around him to be very comfortable with him.
“He had a textbook smile,” the colonel explained. “When I say he was one of our best, he always saw the good in whatever was going on. He always focused on the positive.”
He would have celebrated his 32nd birthday on Monday.
Det. Campbell was especially proud of his wife, Hillary, and their six-month-old son, Everett.
He “glowed” whenever he introduced anyone to her, and “took pride” in his marriage and son, Col. Cote said.
Maine Governor Janet Mills ordered U.S. and state flags to be lowered to half-staff in honor of Det. Campbell’s service.
“On behalf of the people of Maine, I express our deepest and unwavering gratitude for Detective Campbell's service,” Mills tweeted. “Together let us keep his family, friends and loved ones, along with Maine’s entire law enforcement community, in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Maine State Police Detective Benjamin Campbell, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.