Defendants in fatal hayride crash in Maine plead not guilty

AP News
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Posted: Jul 30, 2015 1:42 PM
Defendants in fatal hayride crash in Maine plead not guilty

AUBURN, Maine (AP) — All three defendants in a Halloween-themed hayride crash that killed a teenager and injured more than a dozen other passengers pleaded not guilty Thursday in their first court appearance.

The driver, 55-year-old David Brown of South Paris, and a farm mechanic, 38-year-old Phillip Theberge of Norway, appeared in court to enter their pleas to reckless conduct. A Portland attorney represented Harvest Hill Farm of Mechanic Falls, which is charged with manslaughter, aggravated assault, driving to endanger and reckless conduct.

A judge in Androscoggin County Superior Court allowed Theberge and Brown to be released on personal recognizance, with no bail conditions.

Harvest Hill Farm faces potential fines of $170,000, along with the potential of restitution, if convicted on all counts, said Michael Whipple, who represented the farm. The reckless conduct charges against the individuals carry a possible penalty of 364 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Authorities have said it appears a mechanical problem caused the hayride accident. A Jeep that was towing a wagon involved in the crash was examined by a team of state troopers, motor vehicle inspectors and fire marshal investigators.

The hayride, called the Gauntlet Haunted Night Ride, went out of control and overturned while traveling downhill, killing 17-year-old Cassidy Charette and injuring about 20 other riders.

The company that owns the property on which the farm buildings are located has filed for bankruptcy, citing personal injury claims as a liability. Peter Bolduc, owner of the farm, has not been charged.