PORT CLYDE, Maine — Police say they received a complaint about a similar car speeding and driving recklessly in Waldoboro less than an hour before an Infiniti plowed into people on a wharf in Port Clyde, killing a child.
Police investigated whether the same vehicle was involved in both cases, according to Knox County Sheriff Donna Dennison. The sheriff confirmed the description of the vehicle in Waldoboro was very similar but declined to reveal the results of the investigation.
The sheriff said all investigative reports, including about the reckless driving complaint, have been turned over to District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau, who has asked that all media questions be referred to him.
Rushlau said Tuesday that he is reviewing the investigative reports from the police agencies involved and would not discuss their content. He had no timetable for when a determination would be made on whether charges would be filed in connection with the Port Clyde fatality. The prosecutor said often in review of cases he will ask police to do follow-up investigations before he makes a decision.
Waldoboro Police Chief William Labombarde confirmed Tuesday that the Lincoln County communications center received a call at 1:47 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 11, about a black Infiniti with gold-colored license plates numbered GVC7762 driving recklessly, passing cars on the right and speeding north on Route 1 in Waldoboro, 2 miles north of the Nobleboro town line.
The car involved in the fatal Port Clyde crash was a dark blue 2007 Infiniti G-35 with gold New York license plates GBC7262.
When the call about a reckless driver came in, the Waldoboro officer on duty was busy with an unrelated suspected drunken driver on Route 1 in Waldoboro, according to Labombarde. While the officer had that car pulled over, there was a serious crash just ahead on Route 1 that also required the chief and other officers. Labombarde said the officers closed off Route 1 shortly after the 1:51 p.m. crash in Waldoboro and rerouted northbound traffic onto Route 235.
The chief said he does not know whether the speeding Infiniti got by that section of Route 1 before traffic was rerouted.
At 2:36 p.m., the Knox County Regional Communications Center received multiple reports of a car plowing into people on the Monhegan Boat Lines wharf at the end of Port Clyde.
The car involved in the fatal crash on the wharf was the dark blue Infiniti driven by Cheryl Lynn Torgerson, 61, of New York City, who was traveling to Port Clyde to catch the 3 p.m. ferry to Monhegan for a vacation.
Without any detours, the Port Clyde wharf is about 26 miles by Routes 1 and 131 from where a reckless driver was reported in Waldoboro. According to Mapquest.com, that distance would take about 45 minutes to travel at the speed limit. Being detoured to Route 235 and then 131 would increase the travel distance to about 37 miles and about an hour drive, according to Mapquest.
According to an affidavit filed in court by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office to obtain a search warrant to download information from the electronic data recorder in Torgerson’s vehicle, Torgerson said her car started to accelerate as she came down the incline toward the ferry wharf. Torgerson told investigators that the accelerator went down on its own and was stuck to the floor, according to the affidavit.
Contrary to previous reports, Chief Deputy Tim Carroll said that when officers arrived the accelerator was not down but that Torgerson had reported that it was down.
The vehicle was inspected and those reports indicated no mechanical problems, Carroll said last week about all the reports he had seen, cautioning that he had not seen every document in the 4-inch-thick folder turned over two weeks ago to the Knox County district attorney’s office.
When Torgerson’s vehicle accelerated at the wharf, it 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 was interviewed by police at the time of the crash but has not been questioned a second time. She has hired an attorney and questions are being referred to her lawyer, Carroll said Friday.
Investigators interviewed 15 to 20 people, some more than once, about the accident, Carroll said. Investigators also reconstructed the crash and performed a vehicle autopsy of Torgerson’s Infiniti, he said.
Torgerson’s vehicle has been returned to her, the chief deputy said.
Torgerson’s attorney Eric “Rick” Morse filed a motion in Knox County Superior Court on Sept. 12 requesting that state police return all data received from her vehicle’s electronic data recorder.
The motion claims that police didn’t have sufficient evidence to obtain the search warrant that allowed them to download the information from Torgerson’s vehicle.
Morse’s motion states that the district attorney’s office is objecting to releasing the information to her.
Morse declined to comment Tuesday about either his client’s objection to the information being downloaded from her vehicle or about the report of a similar vehicle driving recklessly in Waldoboro shortly before the crash.
The crash has prompted town officials in St. George to address concerns of the public about the safety of the road at the heart of Port Clyde village.
The Board of Selectmen agreed on Sept. 16 to create a road safety survey committee that will look at ways to improve safety for motorists and pedestrians at the site of the crash. The first meeting of the committee is scheduled for Oct. 9. The Maine Department of Transportation will have a representative at that meeting.
According to minutes of the St. George meeting of Sept. 16, installation of a stop sign or flashing light could be considered.