July 20, 2013

Teenager faces fine in Berwick teacher's death

Cameron Clair crossed the center line on Route 4, killing teacher Amy Harris and injuring her two young children.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The Maine Attorney General's Office says there is no evidence a teenage driver was texting or talking on a cellphone right before he crashed into another car on Route 4 in Berwick this spring, killing the driver of the other car.

The investigation also determined that Cameron Clair, 17, of Biddeford wasn't drinking or on drugs when his sport utility vehicle crossed the centerline and hit a station wagon driven by Amy Harris, a 34-year-old mother of two who taught at Hussey Elementary School.

A prosecutor with the Attorney General's Office on Friday charged Clair with committing a motor vehicle violation resulting in death.

The crash killed Harris and sent her two children, Abigail, 4, and Lucas, 7, to the hospital.

The charge against Clair is a civil violation punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and a license suspension of between 14 days and four years. A judge can waive a portion of the fine in favor of court-ordered community service.

An investigation determined that Clair was driving a 2009 Saturn Vue sport utility vehicle south, headed for school at Berwick Academy, when he hit Harris' station wagon on April 10 just before 8 a.m.

"There was no evidence that Mr. Clair was under the influence of any substances or was distracted at the time of the crash," said a statement from the Attorney General's Office on Friday. A phone number listed for Clair's parents has been disconnected.

The Attorney General's Office was asked to oversee the investigation because Clair is the nephew of York County District Attorney Kathryn Slattery.

The crash robbed the community of a beloved teacher who specialized in working with special needs children and their families. And it left Harris' family anguished.

"When something like this happens, it's like dropping a glass on the floor and it shattered and putting it together is going to take a long time," said Christine Appleby, Harris' mother.

"The loss of Amy as an individual ... a beautiful, heartwarming, giving woman ... it's not just a loss of my daughter. It's the loss of my grandchildren's mother, the loss of a teacher, the loss of my daughter's sister," she said. "It's not just as simple as the loss of a beautiful person. The ripple effect is huge."


Investigators spent months trying to determine why Clair, who said he has no memory of the accident, crossed the centerline. Rumors circulated that the teenager had been texting and had even told the first rescue workers that he had been texting when they arrived. "That's not true," Deputy Attorney General William Stokes said. "We checked his phone records."

The accident reconstruction also found he was not going exceptionally fast or doing anything that would justify a charge of criminal negligence.

Motorists who were driving behind Clair told police he drifted across the centerline once, came back into the southbound lane, then drifted over again, leading to the crash, Stokes said. He said prosecutors have no way of knowing what was going on in the car at the time.

Alan Lebrun, 53, of Sanford, was driving one car ahead of Harris that morning when he swerved to avoid Clair's oncoming vehicle, he said.

Lebrun was driving home at 7:48 a.m. in his 2008 silver Kia after working his third shift job at the Sheraton in Portsmouth, N.H. He was going 55 mph, the speed limit, on a straight stretch of Route 4 near the South Berwick town line when the car ahead of him suddenly swerved, he said. That drew his attention to a black sport utility vehicle that was drifting into his lane.

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