UPDATE: Hayride victim Cassidy Charette’s family disappointed by state report

AUGUSTA — A new report from the Maine Fire Marshal’s Office says there’s little the state can do to improve safety when it comes to farm hayrides in the Pine Tree State.

The report from a working group set up in 2015 to review regulations for farm-based amusement rides was issued in March by State Fire Marshal Joe Thomas.  

The working group was formed by the Legislature following the death of Cassidy Charette, a 17-year-old Oakland girl who was riding on a wagon being towed behind a late-model Jeep during a haunted hayride at Harvest Hill Farms on Route 26 in Mechanic Falls. The Jeep driver lost control of the vehicle and the wagon overturned. Another 21 people were injured.

Maine, like many states, has no law regulating farmyard amusements or requiring safety inspections for hayrides. Following the accident, national advocates for hayride safety urged Maine lawmakers and the U.S. Congress to create safety standards and an inspection regimen.

But the 11-member working group, headed by Thomas and staffed by various individual “stakeholders” including four people from the Maine Antique Tractor Club, one person each from the Maine Campground Association, the Maine Fair Association and the Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs, and a member of the Maine State Police, determined the state does not have the capacity to inspect and regulate farm amusement rides.

“The stakeholders group agreed that at the current time there is very little that can be done to regulate motorized farm rides,” Thomas and Robert Williams, the chief of the Maine State Police, wrote in a joint letter to the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

They wrote that the state would have to train specialized inspectors to evaluate a broad range of farm equipment that is used for farm amusement rides. An inspection regime of that magnitude would come at considerable expense and would be difficult to manage effectively, they wrote.

The group agreed to put together a list of safety recommendations for those who wish to conduct hayrides in Maine.

Among those recommendations are to use vehicles that are rated properly to tow the loads they are going to haul, regular vehicle and equipment inspections and documented driver training.

The report determined that there are between 250 and 400 motorized farm rides in Maine each year.

At least six bills were submitted in 2015 in an attempt to regulate hayrides, but lawmakers settled on a resolution that called for the working group’s review and report.

Report of the Maine Fire Marshal's Office on hayride safety


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