AUBURN, Maine (AP) — A farm that hosted a Halloween-themed hayride and its driver were indicted Wednesday in a crash that killed a teenage girl and injured more than a dozen passengers.
A grand jury leveled manslaughter charges against Harvest Hills Farm Inc. and driver David Brown in the crash, which claimed the life of 17-year-old Cassidy Charette. Another 20 people were hurt during the hayride in Mechanic Falls in October.
District Attorney Andrew Robinson made the announcement of the charges after the panel wrapped up its work Wednesday. It was the third time grand jurors were convened to consider charges in the case.
The dead teenager’s parents, Monica and Randy Charette, of Oakland, said they respected the legal process.
“We understand there are many people who are angry and want some sort of ‘justice to be served,’” they said in a statement. “We do believe that if investigators and prosecutors deem that a person is criminally responsible, then appropriate charges should be pursued. People should be held accountable for the decisions they make that affect the health and safety of others.”
Authorities have said it appears a mechanical problem caused the hayride accident. A Jeep that was towing a wagon in the crash was examined by a team of state troopers, motor vehicle inspectors and fire marshal investigators.
The hayride was called The Gauntlet. The trailer went out of control and overturned while traveling downhill, throwing riders into trees, officials said.
The hay wagon was being pulled by a 1979 Jeep when it crashed. The driver was among those hospitalized. A mechanic who had worked on the Jeep was indicted on a misdemeanor charge of reckless conduct in the case.
The farm and the driver also were charged with aggravated assault, driving to endanger and reckless conduct.
Messages left for the farm and for a spokesman for the farm weren’t immediately returned Wednesday. No working telephone number could be found for the driver, who lives in Paris, just northwest of the farm.
The Charettes said the charges won’t bring their daughter back.
“In the end, we are still in the same place,” they said. “Living in a life we no longer recognize without our beautiful, loving, inspiring, amazing Cass.”
Hayrides aren’t regulated in Maine. The state Legislature considered a bill directing the fire marshal to license and inspect hayrides and other amusements. In the end, lawmakers voted to create a task force to examine ways to improve the safety of hayrides and other unregulated farm rides.
A company that owns the property on which the farm buildings are located filed for bankruptcy last week, citing personal injury claims as its biggest liabilities. Owner Peter Bolduc estimated his debt at between $1 million and $10 million.