AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine must ensure that hayrides are inspected to help prevent accidents like one that killed a 17-year-old girl and injured more than 20 others last year, a state lawmaker said Monday.
Republican Rep. Robert Nutting told the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee that someone who pays for a hayride should be able to expect that it has been judged to be safe. He was asked to introduce the legislation by the parent of one of the young people who was injured in the October accident at Harvest Hill Farms in Mechanic Falls that killed Cassidy Charette, he said.
"The tragic loss of Cassidy Charette's life may have been what it took to make things safer for all who look for a little fun and a little scare on an amusement ride," Nutting said.
Authorities have said it appears that a mechanical problem caused the Jeep towing a wagon full of passengers on a Halloween-themed ride to crash down a hill in the woods and slam into a tree. The report detailing the findings of the state's investigation has not yet been released to the public.
Most states don't have strict hayride regulations.
The National Conference of State Legislatures said in October that Rhode Island is the only state that explicitly requires a permit to operate hayrides. In Maine and other states, operators must display signs warning of the rides' dangers, but there's no requirement that the rides be checked for things like working brakes.
Nutting's bill would restore the ability of the state fire marshal's office to regulate amusement rides, which lawmakers inadvertently repealed last session. It would also specify that hayrides be inspected.
But Fire Marshal Joseph Thomas said requiring his office to oversee hayrides would be costly because his inspectors aren't trained to examine motorized vehicles and wagons. Some lawmakers on the committee suggested that state police, which oversee vehicle inspections, would be better suited for the job.
The owner of Harvest Hill Farms didn't immediately respond to a message left Monday.
But Barbara Peavey, co-owner of a corn maze in Corinna that operates hayrides, said in an interview that she thinks inspections are a good idea.
"Anyone can hook up anything to a hayride now ... and they're not being checked," said Peavey, who runs Thunder Road Farm Corn Maize. "Everything else needs to be regulated for safety reasons, and I think this should be, too."
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