Biathlete killed by car while training in Fort

15 years ago
By Kathy McCarty  
Staff Writer

    FORT FAIRFIELD — A young biathlete’s life was cut short Sunday evening when he was struck by a vehicle as he was rollerskiing with a training partner.
    “At approximately 8:34 p.m. on June 21, the Fort Fairfield Police Department was alerted to a traffic accident involving a pedestrian on the North Caribou Rd. in Fort Fairfield,” said Fort Fairfield Police Chief Joe Bubar.
    The Fort Fairfield Fire Department and Crown Ambulance also responded to the call.
    Bubar identified the victim as a Wyoming resident who was in Aroostook County for training purposes.
    “Pedestrian William ‘Willie’ Neal and a companion were rollerskiing west on the North Caribou Rd. when he was hit by Erik B. Lundquist, 18, who was traveling west,” said Bubar.
    Neal, 20, who was reportedly struck from behind, died as the result of his injuries. Neither his companion, who was not identified, nor Lundquist, a recent graduate of Fort Fairfield High School, were injured.
    According to the Maine Winter Sports Center, Neal, who had been named to the MWSC Regional Biathlon Team last month, was on a training session with another MWSC athlete at the time of the accident.
    “Willie was a talented young athlete, a smart and inquisitive young man and exactly the kind of athlete we look for,” said Andy Shepard, president of the MWSC, in a press release. “He was a role model others looked up to and we were excited to have him join our program.”
    The news hit hard for those involved with the center.
    “This is a devastating blow to the entire U.S. Nordic skiing family, and on behalf of the volunteers, athletes, staff and board of the MWSC, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Neal family,” Shepard said.
    Neal had been accepted to Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vt., but had deferred for a year to train full-time with the MWSC in the hopes of making the 2010 World Junior Biathlon Team. He came to the MWSC after spending time with Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation and his hometown club, the Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club, in Wyoming.
    The biathlon is a winter sport that combines Nordic skiing and rifle marksmanship. Locally-trained athletes from the MWSC have gone on to compete in world-class events, earning international recognition for their skills.
    Details of the accident are still under investigation, but according to the FFPD, the skiers were on the correct side of the road when Neal was struck by a 1997 Eagle Talon, operated by Lundquist. Alcohol was not believed to be a factor in the accident.
    Members of the Maine State Police and U.S. Border Patrol also assisted at the scene.