MECHANIC FALLS, Maine (AP) — A Halloween-themed hayride loaded with passengers crashed down a hill in the Maine woods and slammed into a tree, fatally injuring a teenage girl and leaving more than 20 other people hurt, police said Sunday.
Seventeen-year-old Cassidy Charette of Oakland 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 CPR — 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 of Belgrade, was being treated at Boston Children's Hospital, state police spokesman Steve McCausland said.
Oakland resident Kathy Mathieu, whose son Zachary is a close friend of Connor, said Charette and Connor attended the school's homecoming celebration together last week. She said the community is planning a fundraiser for Charette's family.
"Everybody is doing everything they can to help this family," Mathieu said. "There are no words to express the sorrow for the parents."
Charette was a member of the school's girls' soccer team and scored goals in recent games, according to results in local media. Garland was a member of the Central Maine Owls, a 15-and-under baseball team that won the state championship this year, according to the Portland Press Herald.
Messalonskee Principal Jon Moody sent a statement to the school community saying grief counselors will be available at the school this week.
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, of South Paris, 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 southwest of Augusta, set back from a two-lane road. A 10-foot, caged monster statue stands at the entrance to the haunted attraction. 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.