What should have been an entertaining Halloween pastime turned into a nightmare last Saturday at Harvest Hill Farms, when a haunted hayride went amok in Mechanical Falls, Maine. Authorities suspect that mechanical failure may be the culprit in the crash, which killed a seventeen year-old student and injured at least 22 other passengers. According to reports, the 1979 Jeep that was hauling the hayride wagon lost control and sped down a hill, where it slammed into a tree and overturned. Most of the injured were hospitalized, and two have been left in critical condition. Many of the victims were local high school students, who were visiting Pumpkin Land Park for this annual Halloween activity.
“It looks like there was a mechanical issue with the vehicle that caused [the Jeep] to not stop,” Sergeant Joel Davis of the Maine fire marshal’s office told Boston Globe reporters.
Deadly hayride crash in Maine
The recent tragedy illustrates the lack of federal safety regulations for hayride operations, which carry thousands of teens and young children every year. Mechanical amusement rides throughout Maine are subject to yearly inspections and licensing by the state fire marshal, but hayrides have no such safety measures in place.
The owners of Harvest Hill Farms have closed the park for the rest of the season and offer their deepest condolences to the victims. “We can’t even imagine the grief that the families are feeling right now,” said owner Peter Bolduc, who operates the popular farm on the outskirts of Lewiston.
In their search for answers, local investigators have interviewed Harvest Hill Farm employees, as well as actors involved in the haunted hayride. The fire marshal’s office says that many of the employees assisted the victims, and some even administered CPR, and did an amazing job under the circumstances.
The Central Maine Medical Center and Boston Children’s Hospital are attending two of the hayride victims who were critically injured. They include the 54-year-old driver, a resident of South Paris, and 16-year-old Connor Garland of Belgrade, Maine.
Liability issues loom
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, hayride-related injuries have skyrocketed in recent years, yet inspection and regulation of these activities is often relegated to state or local municipalities.
“These hayrides are carrying the most precious cargo of them all – children. You would think there would be some regulation, or enforcement of regulation with teeth in it, and there’s little, if any, so that’s the big concern,” said one amusement park attorney to WSCH News.
For victims and their family members, issues of legal liability remain. Could this awful accident have been prevented with proper safety measures? Was the hayride operator driving in a reckless manner? Was the ride overloaded with passengers? Or were the jeep tires in bad condition?
Right now, some passengers may be considering filing a Maine premises liability lawsuit in the hopes of recovering some financial compensation for this preventable disaster.
Maine wrongful death lawyers
As officials continue to review the circumstances leading up to the accident, one thing remains clear: more safety precautions and better regulation is needed for hayrides in Maine and other states across the country.
If you or loved one was injured in the Harvest Hill hayride accident, and you’d like to learn more about your options for legal recourse for an injury sustained on someone else’s premises, we invite you to contact the law offices of Hardy, Wolf & Downing for a free consultation. There’s no charge to talk with our Maine premises liability lawyers, who promise to do everything in our power to hold negligent parties accountable for their actions. Call 1-800-INJURED to set up your case evaluation today.