Fatal crash leads St. George to review safety at Port Clyde village

From left, vehicle operator Cheryl Torgerson, Knox County Sheriff's Sgt. John Palmer and Lt. Kirk Guerette look over the car that Torgerson was driving after she allegedly lost control, struck several cars and a family, killing a 9-year-old boy Sunday afternoon at the Monhegan Boat Landing in Port Clyde.
RON HAWKES | Ron Hawkes Photography
From left, vehicle operator Cheryl Torgerson, Knox County Sheriff's Sgt. John Palmer and Lt. Kirk Guerette look over the car that Torgerson was driving after she allegedly lost control, struck several cars and a family, killing a 9-year-old boy Sunday afternoon at the Monhegan Boat Landing in Port Clyde.
Posted Sept. 06, 2013, at 1:27 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 06, 2013, at 1:59 p.m.

ST. GEORGE, Maine — Town officials and residents are asking for ways to make the Port Clyde village safer for pedestrians in the wake of last month’s car crash that killed a child and injured two other people.

The wife of a pedestrian hit by the careening car is among those people calling for changes to improve safety for pedestrians and drivers.

The Select Board has scheduled a meeting for Sept. 16 to be attended by the top two officers of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.

Town Manager John Falla said the meeting was prompted by residents’ concerns following the Aug. 11 crash.

Cheryl Torgerson, 61, of New York City was driving her 2007 Infiniti G-35 south at the end of Route 131, which leads to Port Clyde village, when her vehicle accelerated, struck one car and then pedestrian Jonathan Coggeshall. The car continued on, crashing into a building and careening along the wharf, striking six vehicles and hitting Allison Gold and her two children of Cohasset, Mass.

Gold’s 9-year-old son, Dylan, died. Her 6-year-old son, Wyatt, was released after a few days at Maine Medical Center in Portland. She was released from Maine Medical Center and moved to a rehabilitation center in Massachusetts. Coggeshall, 68, of Port Clyde, was released from Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport within a week of the crash.

Torgerson, who was not injured, told officers on the day of the accident that she could not recall what had happened. Knox County Sheriff Donna Dennison said Friday that a vehicle autopsy to determine what might have caused the accident has not been completed and there have been no new developments in the crash investigation.

Sandra Coggeshall of Port Clyde said Friday that changes in the village near the wharf are long overdue. She said her husband’s pelvis was broken in the accident, but he did not require surgery and is improving each day with physical therapy.

She said she and their grandchild were with her husband just before the crash, but that they stopped at the ice cream shop up the hill from the crash site.

“If we had been with him, I’m not sure we would have survived,” she said.

Dennison said she and Chief Deputy Tim Carroll will be attending the meeting to listen to concerns and voice their recommendations. Dennison said she would like to see some sort of barricade erected by the wharf that would prevent vehicles from parking on it.

The sheriff said she understands there is a shortage of parking in the village.

“It’s a real congested area, particularly in the summer,” the sheriff said. “With so many people on the wharf at times, there should be some sort of barricade.”

Coggeshall said she would like to see a four-way stop sign on Route 131 where it intersects with Glenmere Road and Drift Inn Road. This would slow down traffic before vehicles get to the village.

“That would slow down the momentum before they go flying down the hill,” Coggeshall said.

Torgerson was driving to get to the ferry that goes to Monhegan Island. The wharf is used and owned by the Monhegan Boat Line. The Gold family was on vacation and waiting to get on the ferry.

The sheriff said she was open to ideas and hopes that recommendations will come out of the Sept. 16 meeting.

Jeanette Martin, who lives along Route 131 near the village, told the Select Board members at their Aug. 26 meeting that cars going by her house drive faster than the 25 mph speed limit, according to minutes of the Select Board meeting.

People aren’t slowing down in time before they get to the village, she said, and recommended that the speed limit be reduced to 25 mph farther away from town. She also said 25 miles per hour is too fast entering the busy part of the village, where the speed limit should be lowered.

Coggeshall said that painting crosswalks in the road and improving signage would help safety. Many tourists — both drivers and pedestrians — are unfamiliar with the area and signage would help educate them.

She also said it would be great if the ferry company could allow some of its land to be used for a sidewalk extension.

Falla said Route 131 is a town road and that the state transportation department has the authority to change speed limits. A DOT engineer has been working with the town’s road commissioner. Neither Road Commissioner Tim Polky nor DOT engineers reviewing the issue were available Friday.

Town officials have said that there has been a lot of uncertainty of where the state road ends and where it becomes private property. The review will try to answer those questions.

The sheriff said Friday there have been no new developments into the investigation into the fatal crash.

Coggeshall said her husband received a letter from Torgerson but that it sounded dictated. She said Torgerson wrote that she did not mean to hit anyone.

The Port Clyde woman said that the day after the fatal crash, Torgerson went to Monhegan and spent her previously planned two week vacation there.

Torgerson could not be reached for comment.

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