A Halloween-themed hayride loaded with riders crashed down a hill in the Maine woods and slammed into a tree, fatally injuring a teenage girl and leaving more than 20 other people hurt, police said Sunday.
A 17-year-old girl died of injuries sustained when the SUV pulling the hay wagon lost control Saturday night, state police spokesman Stephen McCausland said.
Two others, a teenage boy and the driver, were hospitalized in critical condition. Twenty more passengers were taken to hospitals for treatment.
The accident occurred during the Gauntlet Haunted Night Ride at Harvest Hill Farm in Mechanic Falls, Maine, about 25 miles southwest of Augusta. The farm, which also features the popular daytime attraction Pumpkin Land, remains closed while police investigate.
The sprawling New England farm is set on a forested hill in a rural area, set back from a two-lane road. A 10-foot, caged monster statue stands at the entrance to the haunted attraction.
Farm spokesman Scott Lansley said Sunday he’s not sure the popular autumn attractions will reopen this year.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the family,” Lansley said. “We’re a tight community. This is really a tragedy for us.”
In addition to the driver, Lansley said the tour’s narrator was among those injured.
A mechanical problem may have contributed to the accident, authorities said. State fire marshals inspect and license mechanical amusement rides in Maine, but hayrides do not require such licensing.
McCausland said the state fire marshal is inspecting the trailer and interviewing farm employees and the injured people. State police are inspecting the vehicle that was pulling the wagon, he said.
Alcohol does not appear to have played a role in the crash, McCausland said.
The flatbed trailer was being pulled near a haunted house when it apparently missed a turn at the top of a hill, Androscoggin County Sheriff Guy Desjardins said.
“The trailer jackknifed and the Jeep went off the road,” Desjardins told the Portland Press Herald. “We’re talking about a very narrow dirt road, but extremely steep.”
He said the trailer struck a tree, throwing its passengers to the ground.
Authorities said 22 people – ages 15 and older – were on the trailer at the time of the accident. Sgt. Joel Davis of the state fire marshal’s office said every passenger on the hayride was injured in some way.
“I’ve never witnessed a single incident that resulted in so many injuries,” said Desjardins, who told the newspaper he has been with the sheriff’s department for 19 years.
He said some of the victims had minor injuries but others sustained more serious injuries to their backs, necks and limbs. Two were airlifted by helicopter and the rest transported by ambulance.
Investigators remained at the scene Sunday reconstructing the accident.
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