CASCO — The 28-year-old driver in a car crash that killed a 4-year-old boy Tuesday in Casco has never held a driver’s license, authorities said.

Michael Minson, most recently of Gray, was running late for his job at Dunkin’ Donuts in Naples and was passing other cars on rural Route 11 just before 6 a.m. when he lost control of the black 1993 Honda Civic he was driving and crashed broadside into a utility pole, police said.

Minson was taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where he was treated and discharged.

Crystal Petersen, 27, who owned the car, was badly injured and taken to Bridgton Memorial Hospital and then to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, where she was having surgery for a brain injury Tuesday night.

Her son Cameron Joseph Petersen was ejected from the car and pronounced dead at the scene. Investigators with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office are trying to determine whether the 4-year-old was properly strapped into his booster seat.

Capt. Don Goulet said investigators, who were assisted by Windham’s accident reconstruction team, believe Minson was behind the wheel, but hadn’t brought any driving charges against him Tuesday night because they hadn’t completed the investigation.

Minson didn’t cooperate with investigators, the sheriff’s office said, but Marissa Petersen said Minson usually drove her sister’s car on the way to work.

After the crash Tuesday, family and friends mourned the loss of a happy, energetic child who was quick to smile.

“My heart’s broken,” Marissa Petersen said of her nephew. “He was growing into such a good kid – beautiful and loved by everybody.”

“He was so sweet,” said Robin Feehan, a family friend. “When he smiled, his eyes would light up, the prettiest blue eyes.”

Minson and Crystal Petersen had been dating for two or three weeks, her family members said. They knew each other from the alternative high school they had attended and recently started living together in a trailer alongside the home of Petersen’s mother in Gray.

Each morning, Crystal Petersen would load Cameron into the car between 4:30 and 4:45 a.m. and ride with Minson to work about 30 minutes away before doing her own job, demonstrating Kirby vacuum cleaners, later in the morning, Marissa Petersen said. She believes Minson reported to work between 5 and 5:30 a.m.

They would take the back roads from Gray to Naples, which put them on Route 11 heading south toward Route 302. Marissa Petersen assumed the couple was using the back roads to avoid traffic, but said Minson also might have been trying to avoid getting pulled over because he didn’t have a license – although he told the family he did.

Minson had just passed a car and was coming out of a broad curve onto a straight section when he lost control at 5:55 a.m., crossed the oncoming lane and crashed, deputies said. They believe Minson was going substantially faster than the posted speed limit of 50 mph. It had not started raining yet and there was no report of fog, according to the National Weather Service in Gray.

SPEED A FACTOR, SUSPENDED LICENSE

“We believe speed was a factor,” said Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce. “The vehicle had just passed another vehicle … on Route 11, also called Poland Spring Road. The vehicle that had been passed came round a corner, saw a plume of dust and found this (crashed) vehicle.”

Joyce said the car hit a utility pole and split “virtually in half” behind the driver’s seat. Crystal Petersen was still in the car, but unconscious. Cameron’s body was found a few feet away where he had hit a tree and died immediately.

When deputies arrived, Minson was out of the car and denying he was the driver. Asked about the child, Minson reacted as if he didn’t know the boy was in the car and started searching frantically for him, authorities said.

The sheriff’s office reconstruction will involve a vehicle autopsy to determine whether the booster seat was properly attached to the car and Cameron was properly strapped into it. Police also haven’t determined whether the adults were wearing seat belts. A sample of Minson’s blood will be tested, as is the case in any fatal crash.

Joyce said he has responded to at least five fatal accidents on that stretch of road in the past 30 years, and in most of the cases, excessive speed was a major contributor. A series of wood crosses lines a portion of the road about a quarter mile from the accident scene.

Minson lost his right to have a license before he had obtained one, having it suspended in 2007 because he failed to pay a $125 fine for being a minor in possession of tobacco.

Subsequently, he was twice charged with driving on a suspended license and, because he failed to pay those fines, had his ability to have a license suspended twice more by the Secretary of State’s Office.

It wasn’t clear whether Minson has a criminal history because maintenance was being performed Tuesday on the state’s database retrieval system.

SORROW OVER LOSS OF 4-YEAR-OLD

A spokeswoman for the Secretary of State said a search of Minson’s driving history turned up no license in Maine or another state. Minson did apply for and receive a state identification card this summer. Marissa Petersen believes that is what Minson showed family members when he said he had his driver’s license.

She said Minson and her sister’s relationship wasn’t good, but she couldn’t pinpoint specific problems.

“I just didn’t like him,” she said, “just a bad vibe.”

Marissa Petersen had urged her sister to let Cameron stay with her at their mother’s house so he wouldn’t have to wake up early when his mother took Minson to work.

“(Cameron) said he didn’t want to take Mike to work,” she said.

Marissa Petersen said her sister was good about keeping Cameron strapped into his booster seat, and that her sister said that at 4 years old and 40 pounds, Cameron was old enough for a booster seat.

Marissa Petersen was distraught about her sister’s injuries and condition and over the loss of her nephew.

“He was one of the best kids you could ever meet,” she said, her eyes red from crying. Cameron, who has an older brother, liked swimming and sometimes pretended to be at the beach in the dirt driveway. Despite his age, he wanted to be working and would rake grass behind the lawn mower and help carry out the trash, she said. He wanted to build houses like his Uncle Bill.

“He loved all and was loved by all. A 4-year-old boy – what’s not to love?” said P.J. Petersen, Crystal Petersen’s uncle, as he stood alongside the scene hours after the crash. The car was gone but broken pieces remained, scattered in the long grass by the road along with some cleaning products from Crystal Petersen’s job. A Central Maine Power Co. vehicle remained at the scene of the crash Tuesday, bracing the cracked utility pole through a day of heavy rains.

A family member stopped briefly and said he would be creating a memorial there once the pole is replaced.

Staff Writer Scott Dolan contributed to this report.