FARMINGTON — A 12-year-old girl from Connecticut was killed Wednesday morning when a tractor-trailer hit a YMCA minivan full of young campers on U.S. Route 2.

Tess Meisel, of Westport, Conn., was killed and two other girls, along with both drivers, were taken to Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, according to Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland.

The injured girls were Samantha Hollender, 15, and Samantha Gaivao, 13, both from Connecticut. Gaivao was treated and released, and Hollender was taken by ambulance to Maine Medical Center in Portland, according to a Farmington hospital spokeswoman. Hollender was being evaluated as of 6 p.m. and her condition was not available, a spokeswoman at the Portland hospital said.

The driver of the minivan was Charles Powell, 23, of Colebrook, Conn. He did not receive medical treatment. Charles Willey, the 53-year-old Dexter man driving the tractor-trailer, was treated and released.

Investigators at the scene said they believe the tractor-trailer crossed the center line about 9:20 a.m., crushing the rear of the Dodge minivan, which was heading toward a nearby traffic light.

The tractor-trailer, which was entering Route 2 by a curving yield entrance, tipped over onto its side after the collision, spilling its load of sawdust, according to Farmington police Officer Wayne Drake.

Just minutes after the crash, the other campers from the minivan were spread out across the nearby grass, some sitting and crying while others wandered among emergency responders.

A Farmington firefighter running up the road went back to a truck, returning to place a green blanket over Meisel, whose body was in the tangle of metal where the van’s rear end had been crushed.

Emergency responders treated a young girl along the road, wrapping her head in bandages before taking her from the scene in an ambulance. Another emergency responder approached a shirtless man, holding him by the shoulders and talking to him while he covered his face with both hands. 

An emergency medical technician shouted for help when he found Willey trapped inside the tractor-trailer cab. Other firefighters and police officers ran to help and used power tools to pull the windshield off and get the man out onto a stretcher.

Meisel was sitting in the rear seat of the minivan and the two other injured girls were sitting elsewhere in the van, according to McCausland.

The minivan is owned by a YMCA camp in Colebrook, Conn., and was traveling from Acadia National Park to a park in Vermont, according to McCausland.

The tractor-trailer is owned by Linkletter Trucking of Athens, police said. The company did not return a request for comment Wednesday.

James Morton, president of the YMCA of Greater Hartford, said that two counselors and four campers from Connecticut were involved in the crash.

The girl killed in the crash was the daughter of Gary and Suzanne Meisel, and she attended Coleytown Middle School, according to an article posted Wednesday afternoon on westport.patch.com, a community news website.

In the article, a town selectman described Meisel as a promising environmentalist, who had already won awards for promoting “everything green.” She can be seen smiling in photos accompanying the article, holding awards after the Connecticut Environmental Forum honored her for an environmentally friendly invention: A reusable, renewable pizza box and tray with a new pizza delivery business model.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation by state police and Farmington police. A district attorney’s office representative was also at the crash site, along with the state police commercial vehicle enforcement unit, according to McCausland.

The speed limit is 35 mph where the crash happened on Farmington Falls Road, which is also Routes 2 and 27, according to a Farmington police spokeswoman. The road was closed to traffic after the accident and was expected to reopen Wednesday night, she said.

David Robinson — 861-9287
[email protected]


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