April 12, 2013

As Berwick mourns, fatal crash still a mystery

The accident that killed Berwick teacher Amy Harris on Wednesday remains under investigation.

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BERWICK -- Vivian E. Hussey Primary School was a somber place on Thursday.

click image to enlarge

Flags fly at half-staff Thursday outside Berwick’s Vivian E. Hussey Primary School, where Amy Harris taught special education.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

A Facebook photo of Amy Harris.

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The parking lot was half empty. The halls were unusually quiet. The flag out front had been lowered.

"Everyone here is completely heartbroken," Principal Audra Beauvais said.

The day before, a special education teacher at the school, Amy Harris, was killed in an automobile accident on Route 4. Her two children were in the car when it happened, 4-year-old Abbie and 7-year-old Lucas, who was a student at Hussey. Both were hospitalized with injuries but are expected to recover.

Lucas was airlifted to a Boston hospital for further evaluation.

Berwick police released no new details on Thursday about the crash because it remains under investigation, according to Detective William Russell.

Police responded at about 8 a.m. to a head-on collision on a straight stretch of Route 4 near the Links at Outlook golf course. A sport utility vehicle driven by a 17-year-old boy from Biddeford crossed the center line and struck Harris' car. She was killed instantly, police said.

Police still have not identified the teenage driver, who was on his way to school at Berwick Academy, and they have yet to determine why he was traveling in the wrong lane. Authorities have not said whether the teen, who also was injured in the crash, will be charged.

Blood samples have been taken, which is standard procedure in fatal accidents, and police are looking into whether either driver was using a cellphone.

Berwick Fire Chief Dennis Plante, who was among many who arrived at the horrific scene on Wednesday, said fatal crashes are always tragic, but even more so when children are involved.

Plante said others who responded before he did said the children were asking emergency officials if their mom was OK before they were moved from the wreckage. One firefighter even shielded Lucas Harris' eyes.

Hussey School was closed Thursday, but many teachers and parents gathered throughout the morning, meeting with grief counselors and consoling each other. Beauvais said the school would reopen Friday, and counselors will be available to teachers and students on an as-needed basis for the foreseeable future.

"Everybody deals with grief differently," Beauvais said. "But it's not easy no matter what age you are."

Harris had been at the school for three years and was a big part of the faculty family, the principal said.

"She was a natural," Beauvais said. "She connected with every student. This was her life's work."

Harris is survived by her two children and her husband, Sam.

She grew up in the area and graduated from Noble High School in 1997. She went to college in Massachusetts but returned to southern Maine to begin her career and start a family.

Her parents, now divorced, are both longtime business owners in town. Her stepfather, Jon Appleby, is a teacher at Noble.

At her father's business, Salmon Falls Nursery and Landscaping on Route 4, not far from the accident site, there were several baskets of flowers and cards of condolence.

The town of Berwick, near the New Hampshire border, has no real downtown or gathering place. Those who spoke at the town office and at a local coffee shop on Thursday said they had heard about the accident but did not know either Harris or the teenage driver.

 

Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell

 

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Additional Photos

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One of the vehicles involved in a fatal crash on Route 4 in Berwick on Wednesday.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Berwick Fire Chief Dennis Plante, who responded to the accident Wednesday morning that killed Berwick teacher Amy Harris, talks at the fire station Thursday about the accident scene. Harris’ two young children were injured.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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An accident reconstruction team examines the scene of a fatal crash on Route 4 in Berwick on Wednesday.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer



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