Richard Libby said he collapsed when he learned that Kathy Marciarille, the woman critically injured on Christmas Day in a wagon ride accident in Waterville, had died Sunday.

Libby, 68, of Clinton, was the driver of the car that struck the horse-drawn wagon carrying Marciarille and others who had volunteered at the annual Central Maine Family Christmas Dinner held at the Waterville Elks Lodge.

Marciarille, 56, of Rome, suffered serious injuries when she was thrown from the wagon on Industrial Road. She was taken to a local hospital and then was taken by LifeFlight helicopter to Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Libby had prayed Marciarille would be healed and was shocked to learn she had died.

“I’ve been crying now for two days,” Libby said, weeping, in an interview Tuesday.

The 2:30 p.m. accident occurred following the sit-down Christmas Day dinner, which drew 850 guests and dozens of volunteers. It was a joyous occasion, where children visited with Santa Claus, people sang Christmas carols and free wagon rides were given.

Marciarille was the happy, smiling volunteer serving guests at their tables that day, according to volunteer Jeff Cucci, of Albion.

“She’s just this bubbly, bubbly person waiting on people,” Cucci said Tuesday. “She just couldn’t do enough for people — infectious.”

He said his daughter and five grandchildren remember Marciarille talking with children before the dinner started, asking them about their lives.

“That’s just the kind of person she was — outgoing, warm, friendly and joyous,” Cucci said. “The kids all remember her.”

Most people had left the Elks Lodge when the last wagon ride of the day was offered to volunteers and some of their family members. Marciarille led the riders in singing Christmas carols and sang like an angel, according to those who were with her that day.

Libby, who had volunteered at the dinner for four years, was driving west behind the wagon in a 2016 Chrysler sedan when it struck the rear of the wagon. It was a moment he will never forget.

“The sun was shining pretty bright and blinded me,” Libby recalled Tuesday. “The whole windshield was all white and yellow. I couldn’t see anything. Before the car came to a stop, I felt the car go up and down. I didn’t see the trailer. I didn’t see anything.”

At first he thought he had hit a tree, but he could not figure how that could occur.

“That’s when I heard knocking on the window. Somebody said, ‘Get out of the car!’ I thought the car was going to blow up.”

When he got out of the car and police arrived, he still was not fully aware of what had happened.

“I said to the officer, ‘What did I hit? I don’t see a tree.’ I didn’t see anything. He said, ‘You hit that carriage.’ ‘Oh my God,’ I said, ‘I can’t believe this.'”

Then he saw Marciarille trapped under his car, which had driven over her after she was thrown from the wagon.

“I collapsed and went down on the road,” Libby said. “I went down on all fours. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”

Six others riding in the wagon that day suffered minor injuries, according to police. Two toddlers in the group were unhurt.

Emergency crews had rushed to the scene where people, including some of those who were riding in the wagon, were trying to extricate Marciarille from under the Chrysler.

Cucci was driving a vehicle two cars behind the wagon and did not see the crash occur but ran to help afterward.

He said Marciarille had been the third rider from the rear of the wagon, which was struck by the Chrysler. “She had fallen over backwards over the side rail,” he said. “She went from singing all these songs to being pinned, semi-conscious, under the car in a matter of seconds.”

Cucci traveled to Portland to visit Marciarille’s family at the hospital before she died. He recalled telling her family members he did not believe she suffered.

“She went from being joyful herself, and giving joy, to being semi-conscious and unconscious in seconds,” he said.

The tragedy, Cucci said, is that those who were in the wagon had organized a great event for people who may be lonely on the holiday. The organizers start planning for it months in advance and make sure people who do not have transportation get free rides to and from the event.

“A tragic end to a wonderful day,” he said.

CRASH INVESTIGATION

Fairfield police and state police are working to reconstruct the accident, according to Deputy Chief Charles Rumsey, of the Waterville police.

Rumsey said Tuesday that no charges have been filed in the accident.

“We won’t make that determination until all reconstruction reports are sent to us and we have a chance to review them,” he said. “That may be a couple of weeks.”

The speed limit on Industrial Road, a city road, is 35 mph, according to Rumsey. The road is off Armory Road, near Elm Plaza on upper Main Street, and it ends at the Elks Lodge.

Libby said Tuesday he was driving 18 or 19 mph at the time of the crash.

Maine law says a person riding an animal or driving an animal-drawn vehicle on a public way has the rights of, and is subject to, the duties of a vehicle operator and if operating slowly, he or she should stay as close to the right of the road as is practical. When traveling in the same direction as an animal, a driver must use reasonable caution in passing an animal, the law says.

Having an escort, such as a police officer, accompany a horse-drawn wagon is not required, according to Rumsey.

Rumsey said police will gather all information and take into consideration Maine law and the police reconstruction reports when determining whether charges should be filed in the accident.

The wagon is owned by S&S Carriage Rides, of Sidney, and was driven by Cathy Simmons. The two horses, Belle and Princess, were not injured, according to police.

Information from the police and the Office of the State Fire Marshal investigation into the accident will be forwarded to a legislative committee that is studying whether anything can be done to make hayrides safer, according to police.

The Legislature approved a bill in June that formed the task force, which stemmed from L.D. 1057, also known as Cassidy’s Law, proposed by Rep. Robert Nutting, R-Oakland. Nutting’s proposal came after Oakland resident Cassidy Charette, 17, was killed in a hayride accident in October 2014 in Mechanic Falls. An investigation of that accident showed a mechanical failure in the Jeep pulling the hay wagon full of teenagers caused it to crash into a tree. Twenty-one others were injured in that accident.

The task force will decide whether and how hayrides and similar activities should be regulated under state law.

Nutting said Tuesday that the hayride accident in Androscoggin Country was about a poorly run operation in terms of equipment and location and he does not think the wagon accident in Waterville on Christmas Day would apply to the legislative effort, except in a broad sense.

“I just think this is a tragic automobile accident,” Nutting said of the Waterville crash. “We’ll wait to see what the working group comes up with.”

He said his bill is geared more toward people who advertise rides such as Halloween rides, and for which patrons pay money. He cited as an example a fairground Tilt-A-Whirl ride that has been inspected by the Office of the State Fire Marshal. People riding it have a reasonable expectancy that it’s safe, he said, and “that doesn’t occur at these hayrides.”

Nutting said the working group includes people in agricultural affairs, as well as members of state police and the fire marshal’s office.

Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, said Tuesday that preliminary meetings between state police and the fire marshal’s office have been held, but the first meeting of the committee is set for Jan. 8. Members will begin at least to look at the issue and discuss where to go from there, McCausland said.

‘HURTING ME VERY BADLY’

Meanwhile, Libby, who attends Resurrection Life Church in Waterville, said he is trying to come to grips with what has happened — that the accident has taken someone’s life.

“This is hurting me very badly,” he said.

He said he has been talking with his pastor and members of his church about it. But otherwise, he is alone.

“I’ve gone through three of the quietest days of my life,” said Libby, who never married and has no children. “No one’s calling me.”

A deeply religious man, Libby grew up on Libby Hill in Oakland — named after his family’s surname. The oldest of five children, he started reading the Bible at 3, he said.

He worked with his father building houses on Messalonskee Lake and introduced cedar siding to the area, he said. “At age 8, I was putting septic tanks in the ground, and I put my first bathroom in at the age of 10.”

After graduating from Messalonskee High School in 1966, he enrolled in University of Maine, in Orono, studying animal sciences; but he left in his junior year to join the U.S. Air Force, where he maintained equipment and parts for B-52 bombers. He later attended and graduated from a Bible college.

He worked 20 years as a World Book encyclopedia representative until the company closed in 1994, and then he worked about 10 years selling air and water purifiers for a company until it also closed.

A member of Libby’s church, Gigi Prindiville, of Winslow, said Libby is a sensitive, caring man who is in anguish about the accident and Marciarille’s death.

“Dick is a sweet soul. He’s been in our church for years and years,” Prindiville said Tuesday. “That’s why I know him. He’s just a very tender-hearted man. This truly has devastated him.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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