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August 13, 2013

Fatal Port Clyde car accident turns a vacation into tragedy

An out-of-control vehicle killed a 9-year-old boy and injured his 6-year-old brother, his mother and a 68-year-old man on Sunday afternoon.

By Eric Russell
Staff Writer

PORT CLYDE — A Maine summer vacation ended in tragedy Sunday for a Massachusetts family when an out-of-control vehicle struck them while they waited on a wharf for a ferry that would take them to Monhegan Island.

click image to enlarge

Tim Harris and Joseph Richardi of Port Clyde repairs the damage on Monday to a shop at the scene of a fatal auto pedestrian accident on Sunday at the wharf in Port Clyde.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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Neil Pratt of England, an eyewitness to Sunday's fatal accident, talks on Monday, August 12, 2013 about what he witnessed at the wharf in Port Clyde.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Dylan Gold, 9, was treated at the scene by emergency responders but died on the way to a local hospital. His mother, Allison Gold, 50, and 6-year-old brother, Wyatt, are still being treated for injuries at Maine Medical Center in Portland. Wyatt has been listed in stable condition; his mother underwent surgery on Monday. The father, Howard Gold, was still in the family's van when the accident occurred and was not harmed.

The Golds, from Cohasset, a town on the South Shore of Massachusetts, were visiting Maine for a two-week vacation that had just begun.

The accident occurred just after 3 p.m. Sunday in the picturesque fishing village of Port Clyde in Knox County. A 61-year-old woman from New York City, Cheryl Torgerson, was driving her Infiniti sedan south on Route 131 toward the ferry terminal. The road there narrows and then slopes toward the water before it ends abruptly at the wharf.

Torgerson told police she doesn't know what happened, according to Knox County Sheriff Donna Dennison. Witnesses, however, said the vehicle barreled down the hill toward the wharf, striking a vehicle, a pedestrian and a building, and then continued down the wharf, hitting a string of vehicles and then the Golds, who were walking toward the water with their backs toward Torgerson's vehicle.

Neil Pratt of London was eating a late lunch at the Dip Net, an outdoor restaurant that overlooks the wharf, when the accident happened.

"My back was to the water, but I could hear it hit the building," Pratt said Monday. "It was a solid collision; everyone looked up. At first, we thought maybe a boat had hit the dock. Then it was really quiet."

The quiet was broken by screams for help. Within minutes, Pratt said, rescue crews were on the scene.

"It was clear it was bad from the response, but I didn't know anyone had been hit until much later," he said.

Carol Schulte of Tenants Harbor was sitting on her sister's porch overlooking the harbor and wharf when she saw the accident.

"I thought a bomb had gone off," she said Monday. "A car barreled right into a car, then barreled down the wharf at a very high rate of speed. It was like boom, boom, boom, then this guy started screaming."

The first pedestrian who was hit -- Jonathan Coggeshall, 68, of Port Clyde, was pinned against a building, police said. He was treated for injuries at Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport but was expected to recover.

Torgerson was not injured, although Dennison said she was hospitalized Sunday evening for an evaluation.

"She was in quite a state of shock," Dennison said.

Dick Nixon, the husband of Carol Schulte, said he saw Torgerson at the general store Monday morning, where she was eating breakfast. He said some people in the area recognize her as someone who stays frequently on Monhegan Island.

Residents and businesspeople in the small oceanside village were reluctant to talk about the tragedy Monday. For them, the shock was still too recent.

In the stretch between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the community of Port Clyde -- like many coastal towns -- transforms into a tourist haven. The bay is filled with lobster boats and sailboats. The streets bustle with pedestrians. At least half of the cars parked in the area have out-of-state license plates.

Dennison said the area where the accident happened is filled with obstacles and distractions, but serious accidents are uncommon there because of the congestion. The speed limit on that road is 25 mph.

Sunday's accident is still under investigation and it could be days before a cause is determined. Torgerson's blood was tested after the crash, but Dennison said there is no reason to believe she was impaired. Torgerson's car has been impounded and it will be examined to see if there was a mechanical malfunction. An accident report was not available Monday.

Although most people declined to talk about what happened, Sunday's accident was on everyone's mind Monday.

A small crew worked to repair the damaged building, which houses a small gift shop called the Sea Star Shop and the ticket counter for the Monhegan ferry.

Inside the Port Clyde General Store, just steps from the accident scene, a glass jar sat on the counter, with a handwritten sign asking for donations for the victims. The jar was full by 2 p.m.

Staff Writer Gillian Graham contributed to this report.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:
Twitter: @PPHEricRussell


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