A 16-year-old girl and her 12-year-old brother heading to school Thursday morning were seriously injured when their vehicle collided with a dump truck hauling a loaded trailer at Old Cedar Grove Road and Route 27 in Pittston.

Maine State Police Trooper Klayton Peckham said the 16-year-old driver suffered life-threatening injuries and both had to be extricated from the 2004 Jeep Cherokee by Gardiner Fire Department personnel.

In a news release about the crash, Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, identified the driver as Tabytha Hembree and her brother as Alexander Hembree. McCausland said the Jeep “pulled out in front of the truck.”

Peckham said the family lives on Old Cedar Grove Road, and their parents came to the scene.

The driver was taken first to MaineGeneral Medical Center and then by LifeFlight helicopter to Maine Medical Center in Portland. Peckham said the boy also was taken first to the Augusta hospital and then to Portland.

The hospital said Thursday evening it would not release information about the children’s conditions because they are minors.


The crash occurred about 6:48 a.m. and caused police to close Route 27 briefly to all traffic, and then reopen only one lane until about 11:30 a.m.

Peckham said a Ford F-550 dump truck driven by Larry Merrifield, 55, of Winthrop, was hauling an equipment trailer carrying a bucket tractor, heading south on Route 27, also known as Wiscasset Road, when the Jeep turned left onto Route 27 directly in front of it.

“The truck struck the Jeep right square in the driver’s side, causing the Jeep to roll onto the roof,” Peckham said.

The crash sent the truck and the trailer into a ditch at the side of the road.

Merrifield suffered minor injuries and was treated at the scene.

It would have been the girl’s first day of school this year at Gardiner Area High School, where she is a junior and goalkeeper for the girls’ soccer team and an honor roll student. Grades 10 through 12 started today.


Her brother attended Gardiner Regional Middle School, where the first day of classes was Wednesday.

Peckham said Tabytha Hembree has held a driver’s license since November 2016.

According to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, drivers under age 18 are subject to Maine’s graduated license, which has special restrictions, including limiting passengers to immediate family members and a prohibition from driving between midnight and 5 a.m.

On Thursday afternoon, Superintendent Patricia Hopkins sent a notice to those in the Gardiner area schools community telling them about the accident, and noting that a younger sibling attends Pittston Elementary School.

She notes that both injured children are receiving medical care.

“The school is in contact with the family and will communicate updates as the family wishes,” Hopkins wrote, noting that information about the accident was shared with students at both the middle and high schools.


“As a result, your child may come home with questions regarding the accident,” she wrote. “School counselors and staff supports are in place for students and staff members who need support processing this situation.”

Maine State Police and State Police Commercial Vehicle Units went to the scene, as did the Gardiner and Pittston fire departments.

By Thursday afternoon many friends had posted messages on “Taby” Hembree’s Facebook site offering prayers and wishes for speedy recovery.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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