Settlement reached in Maine haunted hayride tragedy

AUGUSTA, Maine, August 9, 2017 — The family of Cassidy Charette, the central Maine teenager killed in a haunted hayride crash in October 2014, has settled its lawsuit against the farm owner who operated the attraction.

Attorney Jodi Nofsinger of Berman & Simmons announced today that the wrongful death lawsuit against Harvest Hill Farm, former farm owner Peter Bolduc Jr., hayride driver David Brown, and mechanic Philip Theberge has been settled.

“This case has always been about accountability, and I’m pleased the defendants have been held accountable, first in the criminal court and now with the resolution of the civil case,” Nofsinger said. “I’ve had the honor and privilege of representing Cassidy’s parents, Monica and Randy Charette. They are the definition of courage and grace.”

Funds received under the terms of the settlement will be used by the Charette family to support the ShineOnCass Foundation, a non-profit public charity created to educate, inspire, and empower youth to support their communities through volunteer charitable activities. The Foundation was established two years ago to honor Charette, who was an honor student, active community volunteer, and standout athlete at Messalonskee High School in Oakland, Maine.

Cassidy’s dedication to public service and her positive attitude have inspired a wave of philanthropy and volunteerism in the Oakland area and beyond. In less than two years, more than $200,000 has been gifted to various charitable organizations close to Cassidy’s heart, and thousands of dollars have been donated in-kind to support community service projects.

“The absence of Cassidy in our lives will never heal with time or accountability. Nothing can bring her back. This has changed the way we all view our existence, the time we have here, and how we spend it,” Monica Charette said in a written statement.

“We wish to thank all who have and continue to carry us and give us hope. We are eternally grateful to friends and strangers alike, who honor Cass by shining her light and their own. 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. We are the keeper of her light.”

The Charettes filed the wrongful death lawsuit in July 2016 at Kennebec County Superior Court. Last November, Peter Bolduc Jr. admitted criminal negligence when he pleaded guilty, on behalf of the farm, to a felony charge of driving to endanger. Investigations into the Oct. 11, 2014, crash revealed that the rear brakes of the Jeep pulling the hayride did not work, its front brakes were not functioning properly, and the vehicle was hauling more than double its intended towing capacity, among other hazards.

“The great tragedy is that if some basic, common sense safety precautions had been taken, Cassidy would still be here,” Nofsinger said. “The Jeep was in deplorable condition. This wasn’t a simple accident as some have suggested. It was a disaster waiting to happen. Now Cassidy and her family are paying the price.”

The case exposed the dangers of unregulated hayrides and similar attractions, Nofsinger said. Because farm trucks, tractors, and other equipment are not subject to state inspection, vehicles are routinely used that are unsafe for the terrain and the loads they are carrying. The Charette family plans to work with legislators to revisit “Cassidy’s Law” in hopes it might prevent this tragedy from happening to another family in Maine.

“We hope the operators of these attractions are paying attention, and making changes to keep patrons safe,” Nofsinger said. “We hope legislators are paying attention, and will reconsider simple, common sense regulations that would ensure safe towing capacities and properly maintained vehicles capable of passing a State inspection, like any other vehicle.”

Cassidy Jean Cassidy and Colby Charette as kidsColby holding Charette photo

Statement from the Family of Cassidy Charette, Aug. 9, 2017

“The absence of Cassidy in our lives will never heal with time or accountability. Nothing can bring her back. This tragedy has changed the way we all view our existence, the time we have here, and how we spend it.

We wish to thank all who have and continue to carry us and give us hope. We are eternally grateful to friends and strangers alike, who honor Cass by shining her light and their own.

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. We are the keeper of her light.”

About the ShineOnCass Foundation

ShineOnCass Foundation is a 501c3 not-for-profit public charity established by the family of Cassidy Charette. The Foundation’s mission is “to educate, inspire and empower youth to make their world a better place through volunteer charitable activities.”

Email: shineoncass@gmail.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Shine-On-Cass-1247015985360199/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shineoncass/?hl=en

Website: www.ShineOnCass.org (coming soon)

Some of the programs inspired by Cassidy and supported by the Foundation include:

  • Cassidy’s Kitchen & Shine On Cass Easter Egg Hunt, Hart to Hart Farm & Education Center, Albion

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine ShineOnCass youth mentoring programs established in Cassidy’s honor in Oakland schools and at the Waterville Area YMCA/Boys & Girls Club at Alfond Youth Center in Waterville

  • Cassidy’s Kids (student community service projects), Mount Merici Academy, Waterville

  • Humane Society “ShineOnCass” volunteer events

  • Shine On Saturday, Messalonskee High School Girls Soccer mentoring day

  • ShineOnCass Scholarship & Service Awards, Messalonskee High School

Fundraising Events

  • Kick Around the Clock for Cass (11-hour soccer game) for ShineOnCass Foundation

  • Bowl for Cassidy’s Sake & Putt 4 Cass, to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine

  • Warming Up for Christmas Guitar Concert to benefit ShineOnCass Foundation

Shining On

The ShineOnCass Scholarship is a core program of the ShineOnCass Foundation. Awarded annually to a graduating senior at Messalonskee High School in Oakland, Maine, the $3,000 scholarship benefits students who have demonstrated exemplary community service, and who will continue their service work in college.

The first ShineOnCass Scholarship was awarded to Liz Larsen in June, 2016, at what would have been Cassidy’s graduation from Messalonskee High School. In June 2017, the second annual scholarship was presented to Anna Dobos.

Larsen is going into her second year at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she participated in the school’s “Mission of the Month” program, cleaning up the grounds at a local nursing home and making care bags for children in local hospitals. This past spring she volunteered at University of Michigan Health Care System where she spent time with children undergoing neurological rehabilitation. She spent her second summer as a volunteer in MaineGeneral Health’s Emergency Department, and recently completed a mission trip with her church in Boston.

“Cassidy has inspired me, and so many others, to look beyond ourselves. Shine On Cass has become part of how we live our lives.” Larsen said. “Everything I do in kindness to help others, I do with Cass in my heart.”

Nearly $40,000 has been donated to the ShineOnCass Scholarship in memory of Cassidy Charette. Shawna Oliver, a director and chair of the Foundation’s Scholarship Committee, said managed investments and fundraising activities will continue to support this fund so that it remains an annual award.

Link to Cassidy Charette’s obituary: http://bangordailynews.com/2014/10/14/obituaries/cassidy-jean-charette/