SIDNEY — Halee Cummings’ family had always planned to build a family burial ground on a small hill overlooking the family’s dairy farm.

Tuesday members of the large extended family and close friends were hard at work clearing out an area, grading and building a mound for the cemetery.

“We’ve talked about it for a few years, and now we’re getting it done,” said Jami Paquette, Cummings’ mother.

Cummings’ death Friday night in an all-terrain vehicle crash was the sad event that pushed the family into making the cemetery a reality.

“I just never thought she would be the first,” Paquette said.

Less than a week after her daughter died, it still hasn’t sunk in for her mother. Paquette admitted that what looks like strength is really denial.

“It’s pretty much unreal still,” she said. “Halee and I are pretty much inseparable. When reality comes back, it is not going to be good.”

Cummings, 18, a high-achieving, dedicated young woman, loved competition, loved horses and excelled at barrel racing.

She was killed Friday night when the ATV she was a passenger on went off the side of a gravel driveway and into a ditch at an apparent high rate of speed, striking several trees, according to the Maine Warden Service. She died not far from the family farm where she grew up, off Middle Road.

Cummings was thrown from the ATV, which rolled over the driver, Alexander Biddle, 21, of Pittston, a family friend. Cummings was pronounced dead at the scene, while Biddle was treated for his injuries at MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta.

Maine Warden Service spokesman John MacDonald said Tuesday that the case is still under investigation. The Warden Service is looking into what happened before the accident and whether charges will be filed in relation to the crash, MacDonald said.

Alcohol and speed are believed to be “contributing factors,” he said.

Paquette said Cummings was on her way home with some friends on a trail through the woods to Shepard Road, where her father, Hardy Cummings, has a house. Her daughter had a horse race scheduled the next morning and wanted to get to bed so she could get up early.

“She was never late for anything,” Paquette said.

Paquette and her husband, Mark Paquette, said they didn’t know if alcohol was involved in the crash, but didn’t blame Biddle.

“It didn’t matter if it is,” Jami Paquette said. “Alex was one of her best friends,” she said, adding that he is also close friends with her son, Casey.

“We’re not blaming anyone,” Mark Paquette said.

Cummings loved horses and was in the saddle from before she was born. Paquette would go horse riding when she was pregnant. After Halee was born, she would put her daughter in a backpack and take her riding.

That love of horses led Halee into barrel racing. She excelled at the timed maneuvering race and racked up championships. The family traveled down the East Coast to Virginia, Georgia and New York to compete. Cummings planned to build a studio apartment above the stables where she kept her two competition horses, Peeps and One Bad Ass.

Paquette said she wasn’t sure what drew her daughter to the difficult style of racing.

“Adrenaline maybe, winning,” Paquette said. “She was a champion. She had the belt buckles to prove it.

“It was pretty much her whole life,” Paquette added.

Another group of friends was riding an ATV behind Cummings and Biddle and came across the crash. Paquette said the family was able to get to her daughter for her last minutes.

“We were all there for the end of it,” she said.

Cummings graduated a year early from Messalonskee High School in Oakland in 2014 and enrolled at the University of Maine at Augusta. She had studied all summer and was in her sophomore year of college study. Cummings hadn’t selected a degree yet, but was thinking about studying nursing.

“She always wanted to be the best at everything,” Paquette said. Her daughter worked incredibly hard, even when her parents tried to get her to relax. On top of her schoolwork, she helped out around the farm, milking cows in the morning.

“She went above and beyond in everything she ever did,” Mark Paquette said.

The family is planning a celebration of Cummings’ life for Thursday morning at 2H Riding Stable at the farm. It will be open to everyone Cummings knew and loved.

“I don’t think we could keep it private,” Paquette said. “She touched everyone she met.”

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

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Twitter:@PeteL_McGuire