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Witness recalls aftermath of car crash that killed 3 kids

Courtesy of Maine State Police
Courtesy of Maine State Police
Maine State and Clinton Police say three Clinton teenagers died early Sunday morning, Feb. 9, 2020 when the car they were passengers in slammed into a tree on the Hinckley Road in Clinton, Maine.

A woman driving home from an overnight shift at work was one of the first people at the scene of a fatal crash in Clinton that claimed the lives of a 15-year-old boy and two sisters, ages 12 and 14.

Clarissa Sawyer, 31, of Corinna said she came upon the Hinckley Road crash just a minute or so after it happened. First responders had not yet arrived, and she went to help another couple that had witnessed the crash. It was apparent that the sisters were already dead, she said, and a girl — 12-year-old Nevaeh Wilson — was alive but trapped in the car.

“I started talking to Nevaeh, and then realized there was a boy in the back seat we wanted to try to get to,” she said Monday. “I went over to him, talked to him and rubbed his head until he stopped breathing.”

Tommy Porfirio, 15, Ashlin Baker, 12, and Emily Baker, 14, died at the scene of the crash, which was reported by another driver at 7:16 a.m. Sunday. The 2007 Toyota Corolla struck an icy patch on the road, went into an uncontrolled skid and hit a large tree on the passenger side, police said.

Two others, Wilson and the unlicensed 16-year-old driver who has not yet been identified, survived the crash but suffered injuries that are not considered to be life-threatening, authorities said. All of those involved in the crash are from Clinton, Chief Rusty Bell of the Clinton Police Department told the Morning Sentinel newspaper. The crash remains under investigation, he said, adding that early indications are that “they had made a plan to sneak out and ride around.”

According to Sawyer, the driver stepped away from the wrecked vehicle when she and the other couple were helping Wilson and Porfirio. The teen asked Sawyer to bring him home, she said, but she explained that she couldn’t take him away from the scene of a crash. She let him use her phone so he could call his parents.

Sawyer stayed at the wreck until first responders were able to cut Wilson out of the car.

“I have my first aid and CPR certificate. I figured I’d do the best I could with what I had. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much I could do,” she said.

The driver and Wilson were taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland for treatment of injuries that weren’t considered to be life-threatening. Sawyer said she had reached out to some of the family members of the crash victims on Facebook and got an update on Wilson’s condition after undergoing emergency surgery for her injuries.

“She’s doing better,” Sawyer said.

The tight-knit central Maine communities where the youth lived and went to school reacted with shock and sadness. Porfirio and Emily Baker were freshmen at Lawrence High School in Fairfield. Ashlin Baker was a seventh-grader at Lawrence Junior High School, also in Fairfield.

“Sad is the understatement,” said Roberta Hersom, the superintendent of MSAD 49, which serves Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield. “It’s all just very sharp right now, and shocking.”

School officials are working to provide a variety of services for grieving students and staff members, Hersom said. There are extra counselors, with designated spaces for students to talk to them. Area mental health agencies are offering support, and staff are encouraged to pay attention to how students are responding to the tragedy.

“People respond differently, in their own time and their own way,” she said. “Keeping students safe is our primary responsibility. Physically safe, and emotionally safe, too. We are being respectful of what they need. With regard to the staff — being human, it hurts. They will have their moments of struggle as well.”

On Monday, students wrote memories and condolences on big sheets of paper addressed to the families of their classmates who had died in the crash.

“It’s one day at a time for the kids. We’ll just help them along,” Hersom said. “We’re being attentive to what might arise, and being very concerned about doing what we need to do and do it well. It’s a crushing thing.”

 


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