State completes inspection of Jeep in hayride fatality

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AUBURN — Maine State Police announced Friday it had completed an inspection of the Jeep involved in the Oct. 11 haunted hayride accident in Mechanic Falls.

Cassidy Charette, 17, of Oakland died from injuries suffered in the crash; 22 others suffered broken bones and head, back and neck injuries. They have been released from their respective hospitals, according to Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland.

Troopers, motor vehicle inspectors and state fire investigators inspected the 1979 CJ-5 at a garage in Auburn, the result of a search warrant. The vehicle autopsy was aimed at detecting any mechanical failure that might have occurred on Oct. 11 while it was hauling a flatbed trailer at Harvest Hill Farms on its wooded trail called The Gauntlet. Towing capacity of the Jeep also was a focus of the investigation.

Authorities said the rig jackknifed as it was headed down a steep hill. The trailer rolled and struck a tree, spilling its passengers.

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The results of the Jeep inspection will be included in a final investigative report that will be compiled and forwarded to the Androscoggin County District Attorney’s Office for review. No findings were released Friday.

State Fire Marshal Sgt. Joel Davis said Friday that it likely will be a couple of weeks before his investigation is complete.

“We’re trying to figure out what happened exactly out there that night,” he said. “It’s gonna be a process. We’ve got to put this all together.”

Interviews are ongoing, Davis said, and other search warrants have been conducted.

The driver of the wagon ride, David Brown, 54, of Paris, was taken by LifeFlight to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston with a neck injury. He was released from the hospital Sunday.

Most of the hay wagons at Harvest Hill are pulled by tractors, but the park also uses modified vehicles, such as the Jeep involved in this accident, to pull the wagons.

No charges were pending, as of Friday.

Harvest Hill’s Pumpkin Land reopened for regular hours last week, but The Gauntlet hayride was closed for the season.

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