Port Clyde man who survived wharf crash ‘disappointed’ in lack of prosecution

Vehicle operator Cheryl Torgerson (from left), 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 in August at the Monhegan Boat Landing in Port Clyde.
Ron Hawkes | Special to the BDN
Vehicle operator Cheryl Torgerson (from left), 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 in August at the Monhegan Boat Landing in Port Clyde.
Posted Feb. 03, 2014, at 1:54 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 03, 2014, at 2:26 p.m.
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Eric Zelz
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Dylan Samuel Gold
Courtesy photo
Dylan Samuel Gold
Dylan Samuel Gold and younger brother Wyatt.
Courtesy photo
Dylan Samuel Gold and younger brother Wyatt.

PORT CLYDE, Maine — Jonathan Coggeshall said he is disappointed that the driver of a car that struck him and members of a Massachusetts family, killing a young boy, will not be prosecuted.

“While I am still focused on recovering from my injuries [my family’s] main concern has been for the Gold family and the horrors that they have suffered and the loss of their beautiful son Dylan,” Coggeshall said Monday. “We met with [Knox County District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau] on Friday and are disappointed that he will not present the case to the grand jury.”

The Port Clyde man said he recalled walking by Cheryl Torgerson’s car on Aug. 11 moments before the 61-year-old driver’s 2007 Infiniti G35 struck him, Allison Gold and her two sons, Dylan, 9, and Wyatt, 6. Coggeshall said that when he walked by, Torgerson’s car was stopped on the road above the parking area for the ferry terminal waiting behind another vehicle as a parking lot attendant was talking to the occupants of the vehicle in front.

He said he next recalls hearing the squealing of tires and saw an SUV being spun around and Torgerson’s car coming down toward the wharf and gift shop. He ran behind a corner of the building thinking that he would be safe but Torgerson’s Infiniti crashed through the corner of the gift shop and struck him before continuing on down the wharf, striking cars and the Golds, who were on vacation and waiting to get on the ferry to Monhegan.

Dylan Gold died from his injuries before he could be taken by a LifeFlight helicopter to a hospital. Allison Gold suffered multiple pelvic fractures, a perforated bladder and considerable internal bleeding. She spent two weeks at Maine Medical Center in Portland and another two weeks at a rehabilitation facility in Massachusetts.

Wyatt Gold spent a few days in the hospital.

Coggeshall said he was taken initially to Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport, then spent five days at Maine Medical Center in Portland and 12 days rehabilitating at Windward Gardens in Camden.

Rushlau met on Friday with Coggeshall and the Gold family at his office at the Knox County Courthouse to explain his decision not to charge Torgerson. Both Coggeshall and Allison Gold said that the prosecutor told them there was not sufficient evidence to support a criminal charge. Allison Gold said in an email to the BDN Saturday that the family needed time to process the decision by the district attorney. She said they understand why he made the decision not to prosecute.

Rushlau said Friday he would issue a detailed statement later this week, explaining his decision.

Knox County Sheriff Donna Dennison said Monday the district attorney made a very careful and in-depth study of the case and she agrees with his decision.

“The facts do not support criminal charges. This remains a very tragic accident, one that we and the community will not soon forget,” Dennison said.

Attorney Eric “Rick” Morse, who represents Torgerson, said Sunday that his client does not wish to comment. Morse said he was aware of the district attorney’s decision not to prosecute.

Coggeshall said Monday that he has not read the police reports to see whether any of Torgerson’s statements to the sheriff’s office were contradicted by other witnesses.

“It is our understanding that she blamed the car. With evidence from the car’s black box and all the reports of Ms. Torgerson’s behavior before and after the accident we will be disappointed if she continues to take no responsibility for what happened,” he said.

According to an affidavit filed in court by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office to obtain a search warrant to download information from the event 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.

The Knox County Sheriff’s Office reported that it interviewed 15-20 witnesses, some more than once. Torgerson spoke to police after the crash but did not speak to officers again after obtaining an attorney.

The vehicle was examined by police and information from the event data recorder was downloaded by investigators. That recorder can determine the speed of the vehicle in the previous 15 seconds of the crash and whether the airbag deployed.

The investigation failed to find any problems with the vehicle.

Police turned over their investigative files to the district attorney’s office in late September, and Torgerson’s vehicle was returned to her after it was inspected.

Police acknowledged they received a complaint about a car, very similar to the one driven by Torgerson, speeding and driving recklessly in Waldoboro less than an hour before the fatal accident the Port Clyde wharf.

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