UPDATE: Teamwork amid chaos: Details emerge in haunted hayride death

UPDATED 1:10 p.m.

MECHANIC FALLS — Seventeen-year-old Cassidy Charette of Oakland died and 22 other people were injured, some seriously, after a haunted hayride accident at the Gauntlet at Harvest Hill on Saturday night.

Charette was with several others students from Messalonskee High School, including the most seriously injured teen, 16-year-old Connor Garland from Belgrade. 

According to Maine State Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland and the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Charette died overnight at Central Maine Medical Center and Garland is now being treated at Boston Children’s Hospital. 

Just after 8:30 p.m., rescue units rushed to the accident scene more than one-quarter of a mile into the woods along a narrow trail that included several covered bridges.

A small Jeep pulling a flatbed trailer with about 20 passengers jackknifed while going downhill and trying to round a curve. The flatbed hit a tree, throwing its passengers to the ground, Androscoggin County Sheriff Guy Desjardins said.

McCausland said that a mechanical problem with the Jeep may have caused the driver to lose control.

The two most seriously injured riders, Garland and the driver of the Jeep, David Brown, 54 of Paris, were airlifted by helicopter.  Central Maine Medical Center treated 15 people, and seven people were taken to St. Mary’s in Lewiston. One person was flown to Maine Medical Center in Portland.

According to Chuck Gill, vice president  of communications for CMMC, the transport to Portland was not because of serious injuries but because the Lewiston hospitals were overloaded.

Victims suffered injuries to backs necks and limbs, including fractures.

“It was quite a job just trying to negotiate the ambulances inside that area,” Desjardins said.

The accident occurred during the part of the ride known as the Haunted Frankenstein’s House, he said. That’s where the jeep typically slows, but the ride went awry. The jeep went one way and the trailer went the other way, then struck a tree.

The driver of the jeep apparently suffered a neck injury, Desjardins said.

Seventeen patients, including 12 brought by ambulance, were seen at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, according to Gill.

When the call came in, Gill said, the CMMC emergency room was already pretty busy and staff instituted a trauma code to bring in additional nurse managers and other staff. The staff that was already working were held after shift to help with the patient load, he said.

As of Sunday morning, the 7 patients who were treated in the CMMC ER had been released. Two other people were admitted and listed in stable condition. Their names have not yet been released.

All of the patients treated at St. Mary’s have been released.

According to McCausland, fire marshals  license mechanical amusement rides in Maine, “however the hay ride did not require such  licensing.”

The Gauntlet and Pumpkin Land, two venues at Harvest Hill, will be closed Sunday, according to online reports.

The Gauntlet, which offers haunted hayrides on Friday and Saturday nights, opened for the seaon on Oct. 3. Rides started at dark, with the last ride going out at 11 p.m., according to the Harvest Hill website.

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