BATH — There was a popping sound, followed by the yelling of an expletive, before a Jeep that was pulling a haunted hayride in 2014 lost control, two witnesses to the accident said on Monday during the trial of the man driving the Jeep that night.

“It rolled downhill very quickly,” recalled one of the witnesses, Duncan Philbrick, who worked as an actor at the hayride and was standing just a couple feet away before it lost control. “Then it disappeared into the darkness.”

The hayride ended up striking a tree, and the resulting crash killed a 17-year-old Oakland girl, Messalonskee High School student Cassidy Charette, and injured more than 20 others.

The driver of the Jeep, 56-year-old David Brown of South Paris, is on trial this week on a misdemeanor charge of reckless conduct. Brown was employed by Harvest Hill Farms in Mechanic Falls where the accident occurred in October 2014.

In his defense, Brown, who will take the witness stand this week, is arguing that he was unaware of any mechanical issues with the 1979 CJ-5 Jeep he was operating the night of the fatal crash.

Philbrick and Casey West, who were working that night, both saw the Jeep lose control. On Monday morning, each testified that he heard a popping noise, followed quickly by Brown yelling “Oh shit!”

Several other employees of the farm testified Monday morning about the types of vehicles that operated there and about their views on the safety of the hayride.

Prosecutors from Androscoggin County are trying to prove that Brown consciously disregarded the risks associated with the Jeep he used to tow the haunted hayride.

Last week, several investigators testified that the Jeep operating that night was in poor condition and not safe for use on the road or for pulling a trailer loaded with hay and people.

On Monday, the jury also heard testimony from Maine State Fire Marshal Joseph Thomas, who told them that his office investigates accidents involving amusement rides, but that the state does not have the ability to regulate motorized farm attractions such as hayrides.

Thomas was on the safety task force that formed earlier this year in response to the fatal hayride in Mechanic Falls. Without the passage of a law, the Hayride Safety Stakeholders Group found that neither the Maine State Police nor the state fire marshal’s office has the manpower or the resources to regulate motorized farm attractions, Thomas said on Monday.

This story will be updated.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.