MECHANIC FALLS, Maine — A Halloween-themed hayride loaded with holiday revelers 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 injuries sustained when a haunted hayride wagon hurtled down a steep hill and overturned Saturday night at a rural farm in Mechanic Falls, state police said.
Cassidy was among a group of Messalonskee High School students who travelled to Harvest Hills Farm to take the Halloween-themed ride, the Gauntlet Haunted Night Ride, state police spokesman Steve McCausland. Another student from the school — 16-year-old Connor Garland of Belgrade — was seriously injured and was being treated at Boston Children's Hospital.
The hayride was going down a "very steep" hill when the crash happened, leaving riders with injuries that included broken legs and head injuries, said Joel Davis, a sergeant with the state fire marshals office.
The crash "threw everyone off the trailer and into each other and into trees," Davis said. He added that witnesses reported the vehicle was moving "very fast."
The driver who was hauling the flatbed trailer with an SUV, David Brown, 54, of South Paris, remained hospitalized Sunday. 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.
Farm spokesman Scott Lansley said Sunday he's not sure the popular autumn attractions will reopen this year.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to the family," Lansley said. "We're a tight community. This is really a tragedy for us."
In addition to the driver, Lansley said the tour's narrator was among those 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.
Investigators remained at the scene Sunday reconstructing the accident. Many of those injured have been treated and released from area hospitals, police said.
A mechanical problem may have contributed to the accident, authorities said. State fire marshals inspect and license mechanical amusement rides in Maine, but hayrides do not require such licensing.
McCausland said the state fire marshal is inspecting the trailer and interviewing farm employees and the injured riders. State police are inspecting the SUV that was hauling the flatbed.
McCausland said alcohol does not appear to have played a role in the crash.