AUGUSTA — A jury took a ride Tuesday morning to the scene of a fatal all-terrain vehicle crash that occurred in September 2015 and killed 18-year-old Halee Cummings, of Sidney.

It was the opening day of the manslaughter trial of Alexander J. Biddle, 23, of Pittston, who was driving the ATV that night when it crashed not far from Cummings’ home. At the time of the crash, a spokesman for the Maine Warden Service said alcohol and speed contributed to the crash, but no other details about the investigation have been released.

The crash occurred late on Sept. 18, 2015, just off Shepherd Road when Biddle’s Polaris 850 ATV went off the side of a gravel driveway and into a ditch, apparently at a high speed. The ATV struck several trees and ejected Cummings before rolling over onto Biddle, according to the Maine Warden Service, which investigated the accident.

In a somewhat unusual move, the jury was driven to three sites in Sidney, following the route Cummings took that fatal night. Jurors did not get out of the vans although Justice William Stokes leaned in to talk to them at one point. The vans were part of an eight-vehicle caravan that included three vehicles of the media.

First stop was on Middle Road in front of 2H Riding Stable, owned by Jami Paquette, Cummings’ mother. There the warm air carried the pungent smell of manure, and calves stood in individual pens near the main road. A large barn was farther up the dirt Holway Road.

Next stop was on Philbrick Road outside the home of a friend of Halee Cummings. A group of people had gathered there for a fire the night of Sept. 18, 2015. Then two ATVs, Biddle’s with Cummings as a passenger, and Justin Tillson following them, headed back down Philbrick Road, crossing Shepherd Road, and going onto a dirt road leading to the home of Hardy Cummings, father of Halee.

The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh, told jurors in his opening statement that Biddle saw a deputy’s cruiser on Philbrick Road and left the public road to avoid being seen driving an ATV on a public way. Cavanaugh used a large aerial view to illustrate the route for the jury. Cavanaugh said Biddle sped up and failed to make a curve on the dirt driveway and hit a stand of trees.

Tillson came upon the scene and went to Harland “Hardy” Cummings’ home to tell him of the crash. Cummings’ father arrived just prior to Cummings’ dying.

Biddle, who had been described as a friend of Halee Cummings’ family, was injured in the crash when the ATV rolled over on him.

Neither Biddle nor Cummings was wearing a helmet.

Biddle has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter charge, and his jury trial began with opening statements Tuesday morning at the Capital Judicial Center prior to leaving almost immediately for the jury to view the area. The trial is expected to run through Friday.

The manslaughter charge against Biddle was filed 13 months after the crash occurred, and a grand jury indicted Biddle in July 2017. Manslaughter is a Class A crime in Maine, punishable by up to 30 years imprisonment and/or a $50,000 fine.

When Biddle entered a plea of not guilty, a judge set bail conditions that prohibited Biddle from operating an ATV.

Testimony is scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

‘I’M GOING TO PRISON’

In opening statements to the jury Tuesday, Cavanaugh, told jurors they would hear Biddle’s voice on a recording by Maine State Trooper Jesse Duda. Cavanaugh says that in the recording, Biddle says, “I’m an idiot, why did I do something so stupid? I know I’m over the limit. Am I going to be charged with manslaughter?”

Cavanaugh told jurors he intended to prove that “at the time of her death (Biddle) was acting recklessly or with criminal negligence.”

Biddle’s attorney, Pasquale “Pat” Perrino, said the defense will argue the fatal crash “was an accident, pure and simple.” Perrino also said the state failed to do an autopsy on Cummings. Perrino also told jurors, “It wasn’t Alex that saw the police officer. It was Halee.”

Paquette, said previously that Cummings was on her way home with some friends on a trail through the woods to Shepherd Road to her father’s house because her daughter had a horse race scheduled the next morning and wanted to get to bed so she could get up early.

Both attorneys talked of measurements resulting from blood alcohol tests for Biddle, which was 0.065 percent, and for Cummings, which was at 0.074. Those levels were shared with jurors in the opening statements. The legal limit for adults over 21 operating a motor vehicle in Maine is 0.08 percent.

Chris Giroux, who was an emergency medical technician with the Sidney Fire & Rescue Department, testified Tuesday afternoon that when he arrived at the scene shortly after the 10:20 p.m. call, he saw Biddle on the ground, who was starting to move. Giroux said he heard a voice calling for help and found Cummings on the ground and a man asking for help for his daughter.

Giroux said he found no pulse. He also said her neck was hyper-extended, and there were other signs indicating Cummings was dead, which was confirmed by other responders shortly afterward.

Giroux identified several color photos of the scene that were taken that night. One showed part of Cummings body, others showed the overturned ATV, the position of a culvert and the road itself. He also said he saw what appeared to be blood on one of the trees. Giroux said the scene became chaotic as more people — later identified as Cummings’ relatives — appeared on the scene.

Shon Dixon, a paramedic with Delta Ambulance, treated Biddle at the scene for a laceration to the back of the head. Dixon testified when Biddle was placed in the ambulance to be taken to the hospital, Biddle had the ambulance doors reopened so he could give a phone number and tell someone, “I will see you when I get out of prison. I’m going to prison.”

Dixon testified that Biddle told him he remembered driving, seeing a cop and traveling 20-30 mph and then rolling over and over.

Dixon said Biddle told him he had been drinking alcohol “probably more than I should.”

Biddle also said, “Just kill me. I took Halee’s life and now mine is over. It’s too late; I only wanted to impress her. Life is all about impressing women.”

When Perrino asked Dixon whether he saw signs that Biddle was intoxicated, Dixon said, “I did not see any, and I did not smell any.”

HEART SLOWS DOWN

While it seemed that a number of Biddle’s relatives were in the courtroom, there appeared to be none of Cummings. Many of the latter were gathered in the courthouse hallway, and some were expected to be called as witnesses.

Harland Cummings testified that he and his girlfriend were home and could hear voices of people on four-wheelers, including his daughter’s and Biddle’s. Harland Cummings said he flashed the house lights to let them know they could come in and say hello.

He said that he was awakened when his cellphone rang three times, and someone pounded on his door.

It was Tillson at the door in a panic. “He was saying there’d been an accident. ‘You’ve got to come with us. It’s Halee, it’s bad.”

Harland Cummings said he raced to his truck hoping he might use it to drive her to a hospital.

“I pulled up. I saw the four-wheeler flipped over. I got out and couldn’t see her right off the bat.” He said he saw Biddle and heard him screaming, “I’m sorry, Halee. I’m sorry. That f…ing cop, that f…ing cop’ just sticks in my head.”

Cummings said his daughter was unconscious and not breathing, and he told her, “Daddy’s here, it’s going to be all right.”

“I could feel her heart racing; it slowly seemed to disappear,” he said.

Cummings said he saw blood and hair about 3 feet up on the tree that Halee Cummings struck. He cut down those trees about two weeks later.

He also described his daughter: “Halee was a very good equestrian, very successful with everything she did.”

He said that at age 18, Halee was in her second year of college. “She finished high school a year early and went directly to UMA, where she was flying through as well as doing all the horse stuff and milking cows.”

Halee Cummings is buried on a small hill overlooking the family’s dairy farm. The Cummings family started an annual barrel-racing competition in Cummings’ memory because she was an accomplished horseback rider.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

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Twitter: @betadams