The family of a 17-year-old Oakland girl who was killed when a haunted hayride crashed in October 2014 has settled its civil lawsuit against the operator of the attraction and several of its workers, the family’s attorney announced Wednesday.

Cassidy Charette was killed on Oct. 11, 2014, in a Halloween-themed hayride at Harvest Hill Farms in Mechanic Falls. More than a dozen others were injured when the Jeep towing the hayride lost its brakes, rolled down a steep gravel path, struck a tree and overturned.

The family says the money from the settlement will support the charity they established two years ago in honor of Cassidy, according to the news release from attorney Jodi Nofsinger of the firm Berman & Simmons. The ShineOnCass Foundation encourages young people to get involved in volunteering in their communities.

A spokesman for Nofsinger declined to disclose the amount of the settlement.

“This case has always been about accountability, and I’m pleased the defendants have been held accountable, first in the criminal court and now with the resolution of the civil case,” Nofsinger said in the news release. “I’ve had the honor and privilege of representing Cassidy’s parents, Monica and Randy Charette. They are the definition of courage and grace.”

Colby Charette, Cassidy’s younger brother, said his family has experienced a sense of relief knowing that the legal chapter in the tragedy of his sister’s death is closed. In an interview at Messalonskee High School Wednesday morning, the rising senior said that instead of focusing on legal issues, his family will focus on continuing to grow the ShineOnCass Foundation and let his sister’s legacy have a greater impact on the community. Nevertheless, despite knowing that the legal part is over, he said the settlement does not provide much closure.


“We still have that hole in our family,” Colby said. “Closing (the legal battle) doesn’t do a substantial job at closing that.”

Cassidy was an honor student, top athlete and volunteer in her junior class at Messalonskee High School when she died as a result of the 2014 hayride incident.

“The absence of Cassidy in our lives will never heal with time or accountability,” Cassidy’s mother, Monica Charette, said in a written statement. “Nothing can bring her back. This has changed the way we all view our existence, the time we have here, and how we spend it. We wish to thank all who have and continue to carry us and give us hope. We are eternally grateful to friends and strangers alike, who honor Cass by shining her light and their own.”

To continue shining that light, the family and friends established the foundation in Cassidy’s name. The foundation continues to support local events, such as youth mentoring programs at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine, something Shawna Oliver, a friend and a member of the ShineOnCass Foundation board, said was very important to Cassidy.

Oliver said in an interview Wednesday morning that the foundation has given out two scholarships to students who emulate Cassidy’s dedication to volunteering and joyful spirit, yet another way to shine that light farther than just central Maine. The first person to win the scholarship, Liz Larson, a 2016 Messalonskee graduate, is now a student at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The second, Anna Dobos, is a 2017 graduate of Messalonskee.

“We’re excited at what’s to come next,” Oliver said, as the family and those involved with the foundation will continue to work to expand its aims.


The family filed its wrongful death lawsuit against several parties, including farm owner Peter Bolduc Jr. Also named in the civil lawsuit were the driver of the hayride and its mechanic.

A criminal charge of driving to endanger also was filed against Harvest Hill Farms, and last November, Bolduc pleaded guilty to that charge on behalf of his business. But Bolduc himself was not charged criminally in connection with the crash.

After that hearing, Bolduc approached Nofsinger and offered to meet with the victims, The Associated Press reported at the time. His eyes were welling up with tears and he said he couldn’t fathom what the victims and their families had experienced.

But Bolduc also objected to the assertion that he knowingly endangered patrons by neglecting the safety of the hayride. His farm has since filed for bankruptcy.

“I unequivocally would never jeopardize safety for profit. Wouldn’t do it. My wife and children were on the same rides. We worked as a family, and my family was out on those rides,” he told the AP.

The driver of the Jeep that crashed, David Brown of South Paris, and the attraction’s mechanic, Philip Theberge of Norway, both faced misdemeanor charges of reckless conduct. But a Sagadahoc County jury found Brown not guilty last September, and Androscoggin County prosecutors dropped their case against Theberge a month later.


At his trial, Brown argued that he wasn’t aware of any problems with the brakes on the 1979 CJ-5 Jeep he was driving that night. He also expressed sadness over the death of Cassidy.

“There’s no winners here,” he said in an interview after the trial. “There’s no victory celebration going on. There’s been nothing but harm for a lot of people. … The hardest part has been living with the fact that we lost the young girl.”

Cassidy’s family will continue to push for a state law that requires regulation and inspection of recreational wagon rides like the one she was riding that night, Nosfinger said in the news release announcing the wrongful death settlement.

Known as Cassidy’s Law, the original push for inspection didn’t move forward, Nofsinger said Wednesday morning, but she did say there is hope that the state Legislature could revisit it at some future point, saying it might not make sense for every farm to have to have its vehicles inspected. But a farm that invites the public for a business purpose — such as hayrides — “makes more sense for safety standards.”

“These trucks would have failed inspection in almost every conceivable way,” she said of the vehicles at Harvest Hill Farms. “If inspection had been required, this simply would not have happened.”

It’s clear the law would have saved lives, Nofsinger said, and it also would have prevented many others from being injured. She pointed out that there were 22 people on that hayride in Mechanic Falls and some were seriously injured.


“We’re focused on what good could come from this,” she said.

A safety task force was formed in the wake of the accident, which included State Fire Marshal Joseph Thomas and Col. Robert Williams, chief of the Maine State Police. Last year, the group issued a report saying the state doesn’t have the capacity to regulate motorized farm attractions.

“The great tragedy is that if some basic, common-sense safety precautions had been taken, Cassidy would still be here,” Nofsinger said. “The Jeep was in deplorable condition. This wasn’t a simple accident as some have suggested. It was a disaster waiting to happen. Now Cassidy and her family are paying the price.”

Nofsinger said the goal through all the legalities was to resolve the issue of why the event happened and hold those responsible accountable.

“This was something that was completely preventable,” she said.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642


[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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