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Teen dead, more than 20 hurt in US hayride crash

October 12, 2014

MECHANIC FALLS, Maine (AP) — A Halloween-themed hayride loaded with passengers crashed down a hill in the Maine woods and slammed into a tree, killing a teenage girl and leaving more than 20 other people hurt, police said Sunday.

Seventeen-year-old Cassidy Charette died from her injuries after the Gauntlet Haunted Night Ride wagon overturned Saturday night at a rural farm in Mechanic Falls, authorities said.

The crash “threw everyone off the trailer and into each other and into trees,” said Sgt. Joel Davis of the state fire marshal’s office. He said a mechanical problem prevented the SUV pulling the wagon from stopping.

Several actors participating in the ride’s scenes assisted the injured riders — including some performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation — and likely helped prevent the accident from being even worse, Davis said.

About a half-dozen of those hurt remained hospitalized Sunday afternoon but their injuries did not appear life-threatening, Davis said.

Charette was among a group of friends who visit Harvest Hills Farm every fall, Davis said. One of her fellow students at Messalonskee High School, 16-year-old Connor Garland was being treated at Boston Children’s Hospital, state police spokesman Steve McCausland said.

The hay wagon was being pulled by a 1979 Jeep when it crashed, according to the fire marshal’s office. The driver, identified by police as David Brown, 54, was among those hospitalized. Brown is an experienced trucker who has a commercial driver’s license, according to a spokesman for the farm.

The sprawling New England farm is set on a forested hill in a rural area about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of Augusta, set back from a two-lane road. The farm also features Pumpkin Land — a daytime attraction.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the family,” farm spokesman Scott Lansley said. “We’re a tight community. This is really a tragedy for us.”

Lansley said the tour’s narrator was among the other 19 people authorities said were injured.

The owners have been hosting the haunted ride for about five years without incident, Lansley said. He said Saturday night was a busy night for the ride, with more than 500 patrons. The entire park was evacuated after the crash, he said.

State fire marshals inspect and license mechanical amusement rides in Maine, but hayrides do not require such licensing.

The investigation into the crash is still ongoing and results will be forward to the district attorney to determine if there is criminal liability, Davis said.

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