A 16-year-old girl from Pittston who was a junior student-athlete at Gardiner Area High School has died from injuries she suffered Thursday when the vehicle she was driving was struck by a dump truck.

Tabytha Hembree, 16, of Pittston, had suffered severe injuries in a crash on Route 27 when, police say, her Jeep pulled out in front of a dump truck hauling a tractor on a trailer at the intersection with Old Cedar Grove Road. Hembree was goal-keeper for the school’s girls’ soccer team and active with the drama club.

Her death was announced Friday morning by Gardiner school officials, and all athletic events for Friday were postponed.

Patricia Hopkins, superintendent of School Administrative District 11, the Gardiner area schools, was at the high school Friday morning, and she sent a message to the district community.

“With the family’s permission, I am sad to inform you that as a result of yesterday’s automobile accident Tabytha Hembree has died,” she wrote.

Hembree was heading to school for her first day of junior year about 6:45 a.m. Thursday and had her brother as a passenger. A photo posted on Facebook shows her seat-belted in the driver’s seat and her brother, Alex Hembree, 12, in the front passenger seat, also wearing a seat belt.


Hopkins also said Alex Hembree, who attends Gardiner Regional Middle School, was expected to make a full recovery from his injuries suffered in the crash.

Early Friday afternoon, students at the high school had been told of the death of their classmate when they were assembled with their advisory groups so that each small group of students would be with an adult.

“We have a number of students and staff who are impacted significantly by this,” Hopkins said, adding that some students had chosen to go home with their parents. She said students were grieving together and counselors were assisting.

Classes later resumed at the school.

“We’re trying to maintain as much flexibility as possible,” she said.

She said the people close to Tabytha Hembree, known as “Taby,” were having a difficult time dealing with her loss.


“I did hear she was just an amazing young woman who was loved by everybody she came into contact with,” Hopkins said.

Taby Hembree was also a student athlete at Crossfit Undaunted, a strength and conditioning facility on Leighton Road in Augusta.

“Such a sweet and wonderful young lady Taby was,” owner/coach Mark Houdlette posted on its Facebook page. “Her spirit will live on in all who were touched by her warm smile and supportive attitude. We are devastated by this loss … thoughts and prayers to her family and the entire Gardiner community as we come to terms with the loss of such an angel.”

A Ford F-550 dump truck driven by Larry Merrifield, 55, of Winthrop, was hauling an equipment trailer carrying a bucket tractor, heading south on Route 27, also known as Wiscasset Road, when the Jeep turned left onto Route 27 directly in front of it.

“The truck struck the Jeep right square in the driver’s side, causing the Jeep to roll onto the roof,” Maine State Police Trooper Klayton Peckham said Thursday.

Tabytha Hembree had held a driver’s license since November 2016, Peckham said.


After the crash, she was taken by LifeFlight helicopter to Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Hopkins noted in her message to students that the high school will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, and counselors and staff members will be available there to help students cope with Hembree’s death.

The Hembrees’ younger sister attends Pittston Elementary School.

Bobby Weisz, of Los Angeles, who identifies himself as a godson of the Hembree parents, started a gofundme page to accept donations for the family. By Friday afternoon, it had amassed donations of more than $9,800.

A photo of Tabytha Hembree posted on the gofundme page — taken Thursday morning before she left for school — shows her holding a sign saying she’s a junior in 11th grade and says she wants to be an occupational therapist.

Betty Adams — 621-5631


Twitter: @betadams

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