December 11, 2019
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Lack of oversight frustrates family of teen who died in hayride mishap

AUGUSTA, Maine — The family of an Oakland teen who died in a hayride mishap in 2014 said they were disappointed with the findings of a legislative working group that was created to examine ways to regulate farm amusement rides.

Cassidy Charette, 17 of Oakland died Oct. 11, 2014, after a trailer she was riding on as part of haunted hayride at Harvest Hill Farms’ Pumpkin Land on Route 26 in Mechanic Falls overturned. The driver of a Jeep towing the wagon lost control of the vehicle on a downhill portion of the ride.

Another 21 people on the wagon were hurt with a number of them being treated at local hospitals for serious injuries.

In March, the working group headed by Maine State Fire Marshal Joe Thomas issued a report summarizing there was little the state could do to regulate the safety of farmyard amusement rides. In 2015, lawmakers submitted at least six bills aimed at regulating hayride safety, which instead resulted in a study of the activity in Maine.

The report noted the state lacks resources and expertise to inspect and license the more than 300 different hayride events that take place each year in Maine.

“We are disappointed in the findings of the stakeholders,” Monica Charette, Cassidy’s mother, said in a statement issued by the family’s lawyer, Jodi Nofsinger of Lewiston.

Charette’s family has retained attorneys but have not yet filed a civil lawsuit against the owners of the farm or the operator of the Jeep.

“We are pleased that the conversation brought important awareness to the potential dangers of seemingly harmless activities where safety should be a reasonable expectation,” the statement read in part. “There should be a Cassidy’s Law if it could spare even one life and one family from this experience.”

Monica Charette said her family’s focus remained “on the love and light surrounding Cassidy and our community.”

Rep. Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, who was among the lawmakers seeking legislation to regulate hayrides, said he too wished more could be done, but he also understood the complexities that would be involved if the state were to attempt to regulate hayrides. He said many worried over-regulating hayrides would result in harmless “rides out to the orchard to pick apples” being unable to continue.

Monica Charette said her daughter’s memory was being kept alive by community service projects, including youth mentoring and a nutrition program for children attending Hart-to-Hart Farm.

“This month, a second Big Brothers Big Sisters program will open at the Alfond Youth Center in Cassidy’s honor, changing the lives of 140 kids,” the statement read.

“Cassidy is not in this report,” the statement continued. “She cannot be reduced to words or works. Her spirit is too big and her light is infinite. The words ‘Shine On Cass’ have become a call to action for people to help others, spread kindness and shine their own light. She is proud. We are so grateful. And we hope it never ends.”

 



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