In Bel Air's Hampton Ridge community yesterday, neighbors formed a protective circle around Jeffrey and Mary Smith, still stunned by the death of their 8-year-old son Thursday at a Maine inn about 70 miles northwest of Portland.
Joseph Tucker Smith was killed about 8:30 a.m. after he became trapped between a door and a gate in an elevator at Bethel Inn and Country Club in Bethel, said Maine State Police Sgt. Douglas Parlin. Someone on a floor above called the elevator, and as it rose, Parlin said, the boy was crushed.
Maine licensing agency officials said yesterday that when the 1929 elevator was inspected after the accident, a safety violation was discovered.
"The space between the exterior hoistway door and the car gate exceeded current safety standards," said Anne Head, director of the Maine Office of Licensing and Registration in Gardiner.
The elevator was inspected in June by a licensed private inspector who found 11 violations, mostly maintenance problems, Head said. The inspector did not measure the gap between the door and the gate.
Head said whether that measurement should have been a part of the routine report is unclear. "That's obviously the focus of our investigation."
Parlin said state police are also investigating the violations. He said the elevator was found to be functioning properly after the accident, but has been placed out of service. The boy's death was ruled accidental by the state medical examiner's office, he said.
The accident occurred as the family was preparing to have breakfast in the inn's dining room, Parlin said. The boy, who was known as Tucker, and his twin sister, Ellie, walked downstairs with their father while their mother and sister Mara, 11, finished getting ready in their room. Jeffrey Smith realized he had left something and walked back upstairs briefly.
Parlin said the accident "happened very quickly," and it was unclear how Tucker got between the gate and the door of the elevator.
Yesterday in Bel Air, a poster reading "God Bless Tucker" was placed outside Prospect Hill Elementary School.
Inside, Principal Bud Beehler remembered Tucker as an intuitive child with a ready smile. Even in a school with more than 900 pupils, he said, "Tucker was one of those students I certainly knew well. ... We'll miss him very much."
Beehler read something Tucker wrote last spring in second grade: "I like to play basketball, tennis, soccer and kickball. I like playing many games, TV games, computer games and board games. I like enjoying my time."
His second-grade teacher, Barbara Pelletier, said, "He was an energetic, independent, enthusiastic worker. He was very sweet, just a dear little boy."
She and Martha Schmidt, the school's enrichment teacher, recalled Tucker's love of reading and math. "Mathematics was his long suit," Schmidt said.
Smith neighbor Dennis Reimer and his daughter Daria, 10, stood outside their home, remembering Tucker's trademark.
"He was always the first one off the bus, and he ran full-speed all the way home," said Reimer. Even though Tucker's mother would meet him at the bus, he zoomed off down the half-mile stretch home.
The Reimers warmly recalled a boy who loved jokes and Garfield, Pokemon and pasta with butter.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete at McComas Funeral Home in Abingdon.