2017-01-23 / Front Page

Family of deceased MTA worker speaks out

Staff Writer

SACO — Relatives of Jeffrey Abbott, the Maine Turnpike Authority worker from Saco who was killed on the job in Portland on Friday afternoon, remember him as “happy-go-lucky” and a devoted family man.

“He was more like a brother than he was a cousin,” said Craig Pendleton, who is the executive director of the Biddeford + Saco Chamber of Commerce + Industry. “Jeff and I grew up like brothers. We played together all night long. We started commercial fishing when we were little kids.”

Abbott, 53, was killed Friday afternoon in Portland when he was struck by a truck after he had exited an MTA safety vehicle at a construction site in Portland near the Westbrook city line, Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said in an email Friday evening.

State Police troopers said that at about 1:35 p.m., the truck’s driver, 20-year-old Cody Craig of Turner, struck two vehicles while traveling on the turnpike before veering into the construction zone, striking Abbott, who had just exited the truck to collect traffic cones.

The two vehicles struck by Craig were operated by Joshua Brown, 40, of Rumford and Kelly James, 25, of Lewiston. Neither was injured, McCausland said.

State Troopers said the scene of the crash, which slowed rush hour traffic near Exit 48, was cleared around 5:15 p.m. No charges have been lodged against Craig, McCausland said, and the crash report will be reviewed by the Cumberland County District Attorney's Office.

Pendleton said Sunday he and his wife found out about the crash when they went out for dinner on Friday night and met up with relatives, when one of them received a text message with the news.

He said he’ll always remember the countless days spent on the water with his cousin, made lighter by Abbott’s sense of humor.

“I spent hours and hours and hours at sea with Jeff, and he was such a character,” said Pendleton. “He had the driest sense of humor, and when you can think about five guys stuck on a boat for 10 days at a time, having that sense of humor onboard is priceless.

“He was not a man of many words, but you always knew he was a happy-go-lucky guy, that’s for sure,” Pendleton added.

Pendleton said the two had several terms of endearment for each other, his being “‘cuz,” and Abbott’s being “booger.”

Abbott's sense of humor, and his smile, were infectious, said Perian Carpenter, Abbott’s cousin, who handles public relations for ShuttleBus-ZOOM.

“I called him Jeffie,” Carpenter said. “Still living in Camp Ellis, I would sit on my deck and Jeff would pull up to the stop sign and yell out, ‘What are you doing?’ And I'd say something smart, and he'd return with (a) smart comment as well.

“As he'd drive off he'd say, ‘Luv ya cuz,’ and I'd say, “Love you too Jeffie,’” she added. “He'd shake his head as he disliked that.”

Carpenter said she grew up playing with Abbott in Camp Ellis and that the two were both still kids at heart. She also said Abbott was a devoted husband, father and grandfather, and was taken from his family too soon.

“I'll treasure the last hug from him before Christmas. I'll treasure his smile. Too soon, he was taken too soon,” Carpenter said. “He was a wonderful husband, loving father, grandfather, son, and friend to many and he was family. His memories will live on in our hearts and we will never forget the fun times growing up.”

Pendleton couldn’t agree more.

“He absolutely loved his kids and his grandchildren,” Pendleton said. “Family dynamics in my family are very important and we’ve all been very close.”

Pendleton also said Abbott's sudden death is a tragedy given his history as a fisherman, for years enduring the dangerous ocean waves.

“It’s tragic in the sense that all of us guys that were commercial fishermen, we worked in one of the most deadliest, accident-prone businesses that exists and made it through perfectly fine,” he said. “To have this freak accident take him out of this world, it’s tragic as hell.”

Abbott leaves behind a wife, two children and four grandchildren.

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or abennett@journaltribune.com.

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