AUGUSTA — Suzanne Tanner sat up straighter and leaned across a table to hear what a truck driver had to say about the crash that killed her 12-year-old daughter last summer.

Tanner, 49, of Westport, Conn., wore a fringed pashmina shawl in “Tessie blue” in memory of her daughter, Tess Meisel, at the hearing. Truck driver Charles H. Willey, 54, of Dexter was appealing a three-year suspension of his driver’s license imposed by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Tanner brought some of her daughter’s poetry to share with others at the hearing.

“We’re here to make sure the system does its job, and I have faith in the system,” Tanner said. “While I can’t bring my daughter back, I can help other families protect their loved ones on the roads of Maine.”

Willey’s sawdust-loaded 18-wheeler tipped over at an interchange on Route 2 in Farmington on Aug. 17 and crushed the rear of a YMCA minivan carrying campers and two counselors from Camp Jewell in Colebrook, Conn.

Meisel was in the rear seat of the minivan, which was stopped in traffic.

Thursday’s administrative appeal hearing took place at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles headquarters in Augusta, and hearing examiner Frank Naiman did not immediately issue a decision on Willey’s appeal of the license suspension.

Thomas Marjerison, Willey’s attorney, asked Naiman to wait for at least seven days so the attorney could present several points in writing.

Willey, of Dexter, testified that it was his second trip of the day hauling sawdust from Dixfield to Athens. He had been delivering three loads a day along the same route for eight months for Linkletter Trucking of Athens.

Willey described following a Subaru whose driver braked several times, appearing uncertain whether to go straight on Route 4 to a traffic signal or whether to take a right-hand curve of about 250 feet to merge into Route 2. The Subaru went straight and Willey headed for the curve.

“It’s a one-way street; you have to watch vehicles coming through,” he said.

He said he was on a 30 mph section of the road, approaching a 35 mph sign.

“I looked back,” he said. “I felt the trailer floating. When I was looking I noticed it was floating. I tried to steer it to the right to straighten it out and accelerated some. As I did that, the front tire caught the curb. I bounced my head off the window and it knocked me out.”

Marjerison agreed that Willey was driving the truck when the accident occurred, but said the state would have to prove whether Willey was negligent or reckless and whether that caused the girl’s death.

Farmington police officer Wayne H. Drake testified that he found Willey trapped in the tractor. He and the fire chief found Meisel dead in the minivan.

Richard McAlister, a former accident reconstructionist with the Maine State Police who now works for a private firm, said information from the truck’s black box, an electronic control module, showed the truck was going 32 to 37 mph when it crashed.

State troopers testified that their calculations showed the speed could have been as high as 41 mph.

McAlister said the higher speeds occurred when the vehicle tipped and one of the drive axles was off the ground and spinning faster.

“I think he got into the corner at a bad angle with his weight and size,” Trooper Mark Lopez testified. “I think it was a combination of speed, weight and steering movement.”

A summons was issued to Willey in March. He also faces a civil infraction charge of causing the death of a person while committing a traffic infraction and has a court date in Farmington on Tuesday in that case. Penalties for that infraction can include a fine of up to $5,000 and a license suspension of up to four years.

Marjerison said Willey’s license is suspended, pending Naiman’s ruling. If Willey loses the administrative appeal, that matter could then be appealed to a superior court judge.

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at:

[email protected]