MECHANIC FALLS, Maine — Officials said Sunday they believe a mechanical failure caused a Halloween-themed hayride crash Saturday night that resulted in the death of a teenage girl and left 22 others injured.
Cassidy Charette, 17, of Oakland, Maine, died from injuries sustained in the crash at Harvest Hill Farms, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine State Police.
The crash occurred when the 1979 Jeep CJ5 hauling the Gauntlet Haunted Night hayride wagon careened down a hill, where it struck a tree and overturned.
“It looks like there was a mechanical issue with the vehicle that caused [the Jeep] to not stop,” Sergeant Joel Davis of the Maine fire marshal’s office told reporters Sunday afternoon.
State Police have impounded the Jeep and conducted a safety inspection, McCausland said.
In a brief and emotional statement, the Bolduc family, which owns Harvest Hill Farms, said all activities at the farm would be suspended for the rest of the season.
“We can’t even imagine the grief that the families are feeling right now,” said Peter Bolduc, at the sprawling property off Route 26 in Mechanic Falls, just west of Lewiston .
His children stood beside him, and his wife Kathie held back tears as he spoke. “We are all impacted by this,” he said.
Two of the injured were in critical condition, McCausland said.
They are 16-year-old Connor Garland of Belgrade, Maine, and 54-year-old David Brown of South Paris, Maine, who was driving the Jeep, officials said.
Garland was taken to Boston Children’s Hospital, and Brown was being treated at Central Maine Medical Center.
Charette and Garland were in a group of seven students from Messalonskee High School who were on their annual hayride, officials said.
The others injured in the crash were taken to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston; one went to Maine Medical Center in Portland.
Some of those injured were still hospitalized but most had been released, officials said at the news conference.
The fire marshal’s office is responsible for licensing mechanical amusement park rides in Maine, but hayrides do not require such licensing, officials said.
Investigators have been interviewing employees, including actors who play parts in the haunted hayride.
“We’ve gathered a lot of info on who helped victims,” said Davis, of the fire marshal’s office.
“The employees here at Harvest Hill did an amazing job,” he said. “There were employees who administered CPR.”