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 Today is March 16, 2009 Current Temperature: 27 in Lewiston, Maine 
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Turkey knocks Hartford motorcycle rider off bike

Monday, March 16, 2009

BUCKFIELD - A Sunday afternoon motorcycle ride to shake off winter's cabin fever took a serious turn for a Hartford rider after he was knocked off his bike by a wild turkey.

Jeffrey Russell, 23, of Hartford, was being treated for a fractured collarbone Sunday night at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston after the 4:25 p.m. accident.

He was traveling with a friend on Route 117 between South Paris and Buckfield in the area around Streaked Mountain when a wild turkey flew directly into his chest, knocking him backward off his Kawasaki motorcycle and rendering him unconscious.

"That's like hitting a bowling ball at 45 miles per hour," said Trooper Corey Huckins of the Maine State Police. "It took the driver right off the seat."

Huckins said that Russell was wearing a helmet, which likely saved his life. Huckins said Russell suffered a broken collarbone as a result of the crash and was transported via medical helicopter to CMMC.

According to Huckins, Russell and his friend, Kyle Johnston of Auburn, weren't alone in their decision to ride on Sunday. The trooper said he saw several motorcycle riders taking advantage of Sunday's 50-degree temperatures and sunny skies.

Johnston was not injured in the crash and immediately went to his friend's aid.

Both men told officers that they saw wild turkeys along the side of the road as they approached Buckfield village and that one suddenly flew up into Russell's chest for no apparent reason.

A spokesman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife told the Sun Journal in 2006 that turkeys normally remain grounded, but will take flight when startled or threatened. A search of the newspaper archives revealed Sunday's crash was at least the third involving a turkey since 2005, and the first involving a turkey and motorcycle.

Sunday's accident was the second motorcycle crash handled by the Gray barracks of the Maine State Police in 2009.

Huckins said the bird died as a result of the accident. Johnston took possession of the turkey that took out his friend.

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