PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The owner of a farm where a teenager was killed on a Halloween-themed hayride last fall said he never would have allowed a vehicle with mechanical problems to haul people on the attraction.
Peter Bolduc, owner of Harvest Hill Farms in Mechanic Falls, Maine, denied knowing about any mechanical problems with the Jeep that was hauling the hay wagon and said he'd used it as his personal farm vehicle.
He said that he ultimately submitted to a lie detector test and testified before the grand jury to clear his name, and to prove that he didn't knowingly put anyone in harm's way.
There's a measure of vindication that he was not charged, he said Friday, but that's tempered by the tragedy of 17-year-old Cassidy Charette's death.
"It's devastating. It's not just the days following the event. It's when I'm celebrating Father's Day with my kids and I'm thinking of the father who doesn't have his daughter. When I'm sitting there with my kids on Christmas morning and thinking of the father who's celebrating Christmas without his daughter. That's pretty rough stuff," he said in an interview in his lawyer's office.
The hayride's trailer hauled by a 1979 Jeep went out of control and overturned while traveling downhill, throwing riders into trees last October. The driver, 55-year-old David Brown of South Paris, was among 20 who were injured.
According to an affidavit of a Maine fire marshal investigator, a new brake line had been recently installed on the Jeep and "the reservoir that holds the brake fluid for the rear brakes was empty." Certain brake parts were left or were not properly installed, an inspector said.
Bolduc said he'd asked a mechanic to go over the vehicle to make sure it was OK before the season, and that some parts including the gas tank were replaced. He and his attorney, Michael Whipple, said an employee who claimed Bolduc knew about the problems had lied.
"My conscience is clear. I did not know, and I had no prior knowledge of any mechanical issues with that Jeep. None. Zero," Bolduc said.
He said he even had a backup tractor and wagon ready to go if there were any issues.
The district attorney brought charges including manslaughter against Harvest Hill Farm and misdemeanor charges against the driver and a mechanic. All pleaded not guilty this week.
A corporation that owns the property on which the farm buildings are located has filed for bankruptcy, citing personal injury claims as a liability.
Bolduc said it's been tough for him, his wife and their four children.
"Our faith is strong. It is not a canned response. That is the truth. Because without our faith, I wouldn't be here today," he said.