June 23, 2018
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Various safety measures may not have prevented fatal Port Clyde crash

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

PORT CLYDE, Maine — There were many suggestions made Wednesday morning to improve the safety for motorists and pedestrians in Port Clyde village, but some participants said none would have prevented the car crash two months ago that claimed the life of a young boy.

Members of the Road Safety Survey Committee gathered Wednesday morning at Port Clyde village at the site of the crash in an effort to come up with proposals. Knox County Sheriff Donna Dennison and Maine Department of Transportation Regional Traffic Engineer Dave Allen attended along with town officials.

“This has never happened before. A sidewalk would not have stopped her,” said Jim Barstow, who captained the Monhegan ferries for nearly 40 years and whose son runs the Monhegan Boat Lines. “She came within 6 feet of my granddaughter.”

Cheryl Lynn Torgerson, 61, of New York City, was driving her 2007 Infiniti G35 to catch the Monhegan ferry on the afternoon of Aug. 11 when witnesses reported to police that her car came speeding down the hill leading to the center of the village and the wharf.

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 told investigators that the accelerator went down on its own and was stuck to the floor.

The Knox County Sheriff’s Office has given its investigative reports to the district attorney’s office to review and determine whether any charges might be filed.

The crash prompted calls from citizens for town and state officials to look at ways to make that area safer.

Maine Department of Transportation Regional Safety Engineer Dave Allen said Wednesday that the department records show there were no car accidents at the site from 2008 through 2012.

St. George Harbormaster David Schmanska said he has almost been struck on several occasions by people trying to get to the ferry on time, but also by people who have spent a vacation on Monhegan and are leaving the wharf area in their vehicles to return home.

The vacationers who are pedestrians also pose an issue because they often walk in the road, he said.

Andy Barstow, who operates the Monhegan Boat Lines, said he believes it is safer during the busy season — mid-July through mid-August — because drivers slow down when they see so many people.

St. George Selectman Marguerite Cutroni suggested adding a sidewalk and painted lines to make it clearer where cars and people should be.

Jim Barstow said a sidewalk abutting the family’s parking area would reduce parking and make it more difficult for large trucks to negotiate the roads.

There was a consensus that painting a white line along the edge of the road would be an improvement and something the state transportation department could do.

The wharf and parking area are located at the end of the state-owned Route 131. There are town roads that branch off of Route 131 at that point.

Allen also said that a sign could be erected before the village, alerting motorists that they are approaching it.

No final decisions were made but a report will be compiled and plans for short and longer term plans will be developed.

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