A mechanical fault is said to have caused a horrific crash in which a Halloween-themed hay ride plummeted down a wooded hill and slammed into a tree, killing a teenage girl and injuring more than 20 others.
Cassidy Charette, 17, died from her injuries after the Gauntlet Haunted Night Ride wagon loaded with passengers overturned on Saturday night at a rural farm in Mechanic Falls, Maine.
The crash “threw everyone off the trailer and into each other and into trees”, Sgt Joel Davis of the state fire marshal’s office said. He said a mechanical problem prevented the SUV pulling the wagon from stopping.
Several actors participating in the ride’s scenes helped the injured riders - including some performing CPR, and probably helped prevent the accident from being even worse, Sgt Davis said.
About six people remained in hospital last night but their injuries did not appear life-threatening, he said.
Charette was among a group of friends who visit Harvest Hills Farm every autumn. One of her fellow students at Messalonskee High School, Connor Garland, 16, is being treated at Boston Children’s Hospital.
The hay wagon was being pulled by a 1979 Jeep when it crashed, the fire marshal’s office said. The driver, David Brown, 54, was among those taken to hospital.
Mr Brown is an experienced trucker who holds a commercial driving licence, the farm said.
The sprawling New England farm is set on a forested hill in a rural area about 25 miles south west of Augusta, set back from a two-lane road. The farm also features Pumpkin Land – a daytime attraction.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the family,” farm spokesman Scott Lansley said. “We’re a tight community. This is really a tragedy for us.”
Mr Lansley said the tour’s narrator was among the other 19 people injured.
The owners had been hosting the haunted ride for about five years without incident, Mr Lansley said. He said Saturday night was a busy night for the ride, with more than 500 patrons. The park was evacuated after the crash.
State fire marshals inspect and license mechanical amusement rides in Maine, but hay rides do not require such licensing.
Results of the investigation into the crash will be sent to the district attorney to determine whether criminal charges should be pursued, Sgt Davis said.