Settlement Reached in Fatal Halloween Hayride Accident

A settlement has been reached in the case of a teenager who was killed in a hayride accident in October of 2014.

17-year-old Cassidy Charrette died from head injuries when a mechanical problem caused a Jeep towing a wagon full of passengers to careen down a steep hill, flip over, and slam into a tree during a Halloween-themed hayride in Augusta, Maine. 20 other riders were also seriously injured and sent to the hospital after the accident. The hay wagon was being pulled by a 1979 Jeep when it crashed, according to the Augusta fire Marshall’s office. The driver, whom officials say was an experienced trucker who had a commercial driver’s license, was among those who were injured.The accident occurred at Harvest Hills Farm, a sprawling farm that is set on a forested hill about 25 miles southwest of Augusta. The owners had been hosting the haunted hayride for several years.

An ensuing criminal investigation found that that the farm had acted with criminal negligence in failing to maintain the Jeep at issue, and pleaded guilty to a charge of driving to endanger, a felony, in exchange for the dismissal of a manslaughter charge. A grand jury declined to indict Peter Bolduc, the owner of the farm, who has said he was unaware of the safety problems with the Jeep. The Jeep’s driver was acquitted of criminal charges, and charges were dropped against the farm’s mechanic last month. Although Bolduc was unaware of the Jeep’s condition, that did not absolve him of responsibility. Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis cited numerous problems with the Jeep that was hauling the wagon, including that the load was too heavy, the brakes were faulty, the parking brake was broken, and that there was an improper trailer hitch. The farm subsequently filed for bankruptcy and was sold at auction in the summer of 2015.

The family of Cassidy Charrette also filed a wrongful death action against Bolduc, who announced that they had settled their suit earlier this month. The money from the settlement will be used by the Charrette family to support a family-created foundation to help children, their attorney said. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed. The foundation, called ShineOnCass, aims to “empower youth to make their world a better place through volunteer charitable activities.” The foundation has established three Big Brother and Big Sister programs, along with an annual scholarship, and is looking to the future, said board member Shawna Oliver, who was a senior when Cassidy was a freshman at Messalonskee High School. Colby Charette, Cassidy’s brother, stated that the family wanted to focus on Cassidy and not the farm operator or that chaotic night when he had to tell friends about his sister’s death. “It is our intent to not just continue the love and light of Cassidy, but to propel her kind spirit, and her hopes and dreams of making a difference, far into the future,” the family said in a statement. “We are the keeper of her light.”

Contact an Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorney Today to Discuss Your Case

If a loved one has been killed and you suspect that it may have been due to negligence, you may be entitled to compensation through a wrongful death action. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling 404.255.6677. We serve the entire state of Georgia, including the following locations: Gwinnett County, DeKalb County, and Cobb County.

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