AUGUSTA — A Dexter truck driver has lost his challenge of a three-year license suspension after a crash Aug. 17 that killed a 12-year-old camper from Connecticut.

A hearing examiner for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles has denied the appeal of Charles H. Willey, 54.

The state suspended Willey’s driver’s license as a result of the Aug. 17, 2011, crash, in which a tractor-trailer loaded with sawdust tipped over and crushed the rear of a minivan. Tess Meisel, of Westport, Conn., was killed.

Investigators concluded that excessive speed caused the trailer to tip.

The YMCA minivan, which was stopped in traffic at the intersection of U.S. Route 2 and routes 27 and 4 in Farmington, was carrying campers and two counselors from Camp Jewell in Colebrook, Conn.

On May 31, Willey and his attorney, Thomas Marjerison, argued that the suspension should be lifted.


Hearing examiner Frank Naiman disagreed, concluding in a written decision that Willey “negligently operated a motor vehicle in a manner so as to cause the death of another person.”

Naiman said Willey drove “at an unreasonable rate of speed under the circumstances … that caused him to lose control of the vehicle, which unreasonable conduct directly resulted in the death of Tess Meisel.”

Meisel’s mother, Suzanne Tanner, who attended the appeal hearing but was not allowed to participate, welcomed the license ruling.

“I’m relieved at the news,” she said Monday. “Part of the system worked.”

However, Tanner said that she remains upset that Willey even filed the appeal of the license suspension.

“The truck driver needs to own up to the responsibility of what he did,” she said. “There is no responsibility, no accountability, which is a big part of how anybody heals.”


Tanner said she has been in contact with an attorney about filing a wrongful death lawsuit against Willey. Tanner also said she is trying to find an appropriate way to commemorate her daughter, whom she described as an extraordinary person. Both counselors and two girls who were injured in the crash, as well as one of the girls’ mothers, attended the May 31 appeal hearing along with Tanner.

At that hearing, Willey 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.

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

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

“I looked back,” Willey testified. “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.”

Willey previously paid a waiver fee to settle a traffic violation of imprudent speed in connection with the crash. 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 in Oct. 2 at 10 a.m. in that case. Penalties for that infraction can include a fine of up to $5,000 and a license suspension of 14 days to four years.


Willey has 30 days to appeal the hearings examiner’s finding to a judge in superior court. The finding was issued last Thursday.

Marjerison, who couldn’t be reached for comment Monday, said at the May 31 hearing at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles office that if the decision went against Willey, an appeal was likely.

A woman who answered the telephone Monday afternoon at Willey’s home said he was unaware of the decision and so would be unable to comment.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

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