Hayride Accident Kills Teen, Injures Dozens


Mechanical Falls, Maine is the home of Harvest Hills Farm, a popular spot for Halloween-themed activities enjoyed by the young and young-at-heart. But on October 11, one of the farm’s main attractions – a haunted hayride – went terribly wrong, when the jeep that was hauling the hayride passengers lost control and careened down a hill, crashing into a tree. The hayride accident killed one 17-year-old high school girl and left 22 others, including the driver, with serious personal injuries. The majority of the passengers were local students, who were visiting the farm to partake in its Gauntlet Haunted Night hayride.

Maine officials told the Boston Globe that it appears the jeep suffered a mechanical failure that kept it from stopping in time. The jeep has been impounded for a more thorough evaluation, and the owners of Harvest Hill Farms have shut down the park for the rest of the season.

“We can’t even imagine the grief that the families are feeling right now,” said owner Peter Bolduc. “We are all impacted by this.”

Halloween hayride accident spotlights safety issues

For victims of the recent tragedy, questions of liability remain. Can the owners be held accountable for failing to inspect their equipment and maintaining safety? Or was the driver of the jeep, who remains in critical condition, driving in a negligent or reckless manner?  Was the hayride wagon dangerously overloaded beyond payload capacity? Was this a defective vehicle? What precautions or safety regulations are put in place for hayrides in Maine or other states?

Unfortunately, the federal government has no oversight or regulations for hayride operations, leaving the bulk of inspections to local or state municipalities. Unlike amusement park rides, hayrides don’t require licensing – leaving passengers vulnerable to personal injury or death if owners or operators fail to maintain and inspect their equipment for mechanical problems, bald tires or other safety concerns.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that hayride accidents and injuries have risen dramatically over the last few years, and these incidents may be underreported since operators whose hayrides reside on private property aren’t obligated to file accident reports.

An amusement park lawyer told WSCH News that it’s no surprise hayride injuries are so severe, given the weight and size of the towing vehicle and wagon, and the amount of passengers on board. “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.”

Hayride injuries and premises liability

Though the Harvest Hill Farm employees did everything in their power to help the victims, the death of seventeen year-old Cassidy Charlotte has left the entire community in shock and grief. Local officials say they will continue to investigate the cause of the accident, but mechanical failure or not, the issue at large is the need for uniform safety regulations for hayrides throughout the country. It may be possible for victims of hayride accidents to pursue legal recourse under the theory of premises liability, which stipulates that property owners must keep their grounds safe and free of hazards for guests.

premises liability lawsuit can attempt to recover monetary damages to account for past and future medical expenses, lost income, emotional distress, reduced earning capacity and other non-economic losses caused by the accident. Family members of deceased victims in these types of tragedies may consider filing a lawsuit for the wrongful death of their loved one.

New York wrongful death lawyers

If you or someone you love has been injured on a hayride or other Halloween-themed activity in New York, you may be entitled to compensation.  Learn more about your legal options with a free case review at The Sanders Firm. Our New York premises liability attorneys will review the circumstances of your injuries and explain the process of filing a lawsuit.

To schedule your free consultation, we invite you to call 1-800-FAIR-PLAY. Resources

  1. WCSH News, Spotlight on hayride regulations following deadly Maine crash https://www.wcsh6.com/story/news/local/2014/10/13/mechanic-falls-hayride-amusement-harvest-hill-farms/17178833/
  2. Boston Globe, Mechanical failure suspected in fatal Maine hayride https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/10/12/teenage-girl-killed-injured-maine-hayride-accident/VqidnVJEI8vAtf4yVPwe0H/story.html