The owner of Harvest Hill Farms said Friday that he had never been told a Jeep used to tow one of his haunted hayride wagons had a faulty brake line before it crashed last October, killing a 17-year-old girl.

Peter Bolduc contradicted statements made by some former employees to investigators last year saying they had warned him the vehicle was unsafe.

Former employee Christopher Kimball had told investigators that he and manager Dan Carroll had told Bolduc the jeep and other vehicles were “inadequate” for the hayride course at the Mechanic Falls farm, and that Bolduc himself had complained that the brakes needed repair, according to court affidavits released Thursday.

Bolduc said this was not true.

“To even consider to think I would knowingly put a person at risk is so far from the truth,” said Bolduc during an hour-long interview.

Cassidy Charette, 17, of Oakland was killed when the Jeep’s brakes failed, causing the vehicle and trailer to roll down a hill and strike a tree, throwing passengers from the trailer. Twenty people were injured.

Bolduc’s company was indicted on criminal manslaughter and other charges. A grand jury also indicted two of Bolduc’s employees, David Bown and Philip Theberge, on reckless conduct charges, but it did not indict Bolduc himself.

‘IT’S PRETTY ROUGH STUFF’

Bolduc spoke to reporters at his lawyer’s office in Portland on Friday, a day after a judge in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn lifted her long-standing seal on investigative reports into the crash.

Bolduc said Thursday he is torn with grief for Charette’s family since her death.

“It’s not just the days following the event. When I’m celebrating Father’s Day with my kids, I’m thinking about the father without his daughter. And when I’m sitting with my kids on Christmas, I’m thinking about the father and mother without their daughter. It’s pretty rough stuff,” Bolduc said.

He also said the past nine months have taken an emotional toll on him, his wife and four children.

Bolduc said he decided to speak out after news reports on Thursday highlighted statements made by former employees early in the investigation. Those statements, made to investigators last October and November, were contained in court affidavits prepared by investigators last year when they applied for search warrants for farm records and vehicle records.

Specifically Bolduc said that Theberge, one of his mechanics, had lied to investigators when he said he had inspected the Jeep. Theberge later admitted he hadn’t inspected it.

Bolduc said he was honest with investigators from the start of the investigation, had agreed to sit down for a three-hour interview with an investigator while connected to a polygraph machine and had even voluntarily testified before the grand jury about what happened.

“This was a Jeep that was my personal get-around-the-farm vehicle for all of October and November,” Bolduc said. “You’re talking to a guy who grew up on a junkyard. I know what soft brakes feel like. If there was any indication, then this would have been sidelined.”

Bolduc’s attorney, Michael Whipple, who is representing Bolduc’s company in the manslaughter case, was present at the interview, and allowed Bolduc to speak freely. At times, Whipple added observations of his own.

“His veracity was tested not only by a machine, but also the district attorney, many highly knowledgeable investigators and ultimately the people of Maine – the grand jury,” Whipple said. “As the investigation went on, one of the key witnesses admitted lying to one of the detectives. Not only that they lied, but some of the witnesses were wrong on their information.”

BACKUP TRACTOR WAS AVAILABLE

Bolduc said that on the night of the hayride crash, he had a backup tractor available that could have been substituted for the Jeep if he had known it was unreliable.

Bolduc defended Brown, the driver in the hayride crash, saying he would have stopped using the Jeep if he had noticed anything wrong.

“His daily program is to safely operate motor vehicles. If he had recognized there was any issue with the Jeep, he could have pulled it into the sidelines and got the other tractor,” he said.

Brown, 55, of South Paris, and Theberge, 38 of Norway, each pleaded not guilty in court on Thursday to the misdemeanor reckless conduct charges. Whipple entered not guilty pleas on behalf of the business to charges of manslaughter, aggravated assault, driving to endanger and reckless conduct. Bolduc did not appear in court on Thursday.

Harvest Hill Farms faces a maximum fine of $170,000 if convicted of all criminal charges.

Jodi Nofsinger, an attorney with Berman & Simmons, represents Charette’s family, which plans to bring a claim against the farm in connection with her death.