TENANTS HARBOR — Knox County District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau fielded questions Thursday from about 50 residents of communities surrounding Port Clyde, where a 9-year-old Massachusetts boy was killed and three others were injured when a car accelerated across a crowded boat landing last August.
Rushlau said during the 90-minute meeting in Tenants Harbor that he could not prove any criminal actions by the driver, Cheryl Torgerson, 61, of New York City.
“She is responsible for what happened down on the dock. That’s different from saying she committed a crime,” Rushlau told residents. “In the criminal process, we’re not supposed to speculate or guess. We have to go with what we can prove. My conclusion was there was not enough evidence to charge with criminal negligence.”
Rushlau’s detailed explanation of what happened in the accident brought little comfort to area residents, who questioned why Torgerson’s blood was checked for alcohol but not drugs. Her blood test showed no presence of alcohol, Rushlau said.
Rushlau explained that in order to test for drugs, “there has to be some evidence that a person is affected by a drug.” Torgerson showed no signs of impairment during questioning by police or during a hospital examination, Rushlau said.
“I think they should do a complete check on her blood. No person of sound mind would do what she did,” Bob Cremonni, a resident of Tenants Harbor, said after the meeting.
According to Rushlau’s report and information provided by Maine State Police investigators, Torgerson drove her 2007 Infiniti sedan from her home in New York City to Port Clyde on Aug. 11. Port Clyde is a village within the town of St. George.
Torgerson arrived at the Monhegan Boat Lines terminal around 2:30 p.m. and was trying to make the 3 p.m. ferry to Monhegan Island, Rushlau said.
She came to a stop on a sloped area behind another vehicle – a Honda Pilot whose driver was talking to a parking attendant – and remained in her car.
Rushlau said Torgerson’s Infiniti moved forward, struck the Pilot and spun it around, and then suddenly accelerated, striking and injuring 68-year-old Jonathan Coggeshall of Port Clyde. Her car then slammed into the ferry terminal building, causing her airbag to deploy.
After that, the Infiniti struck six vehicles parked on the wharf, seriously injuring Allison Gold and her son Wyatt Gold, 6, and killing another son, Dylan Gold, all of Cohasset, Mass. Allison Gold was pinned against a parked car, while her sons were thrown into the air. Dylan was run over after he landed.
“The bottom line is that a 9-year-old boy was killed. There’s plenty of reasons to charge her with that,” Jane Steaman, a resident of St. George, said after the meeting.
A driver of a vehicle that causes a death can be charged with manslaughter or aggravated driving to endanger.
Torgerson told police that her accelerator pedal “jammed” and that she could not remember if she applied her brakes, Rushlau said.
An Infiniti described as similar to Torgerson’s was seen speeding through Waldoboro less than an hour before the Port Clyde crash, Rushlau said. Waldoboro police confirmed that they received reports of a driver speeding and passing cars on the right on Route 1. The car reportedly had a gold license plate. Many New York state license plates are orange or gold.
Rushlau said any events that happened before the accident in Port Clyde would likely be deemed inadmissable in court because Torgerson had come to a complete stop behind the Honda Pilot.
“In looking at this, I have to look at the point where she was at a complete stop,” Rushlau said. “One of the basic rules for a criminal court is that you can prosecute for a specific event, not because they are a bad person,” Rushlau said. “The problem is that because she came to a complete stop, everything before that is irrelevant.”
The families affected by the accident can file civil lawsuits against Torgerson, Rushlau said.
Sandra Coggeshall, wife of Jonathan Coggeshall, who is still recovering from his injuries, thanked the residents for attending the meeting.
“I want to thank you for coming down. I want to thank our community for being so supportive,” Coggeshall said.
Jessica Hall may be reached at 791-6316 or at: