Police say that a Chelsea woman was probably distracted when her minivan struck the rear of another vehicle Monday afternoon, causing a 10-year-old girl to be thrown out of the minivan and a 5-year-old girl to be injured badly.

A police officer called it “surprising” and “fortunate” that the 10-year-old, who wasn’t wearing a seat belt, was able to walk away from the accident.

The crash happened when a Hyundai sedan driving east on Eastern Avenue in Chelsea stopped to make a left turn onto Allenwood Park Road, according to Trooper Mickael Nunez, of the Maine State Police.

At that point, a Honda minivan driven by Jessie Hunnewell, 36, of Chelsea, struck the rear of the sedan. Three children were in the minivan with Hunnewell: a 15-year-old boy in the front passenger seat, a 5-year-old girl behind the driver’s seat, and a 10-year-old girl behind the front passenger seat, according to Nunez.

In the crash, the 5-year-old girl reportedly hit the dashboard after being thrown from a child’s seat, according to police. She was taken to the hospital with critical injuries but had improved to stable condition by Thursday, Nunez said. It was not clear if she was wearing a seat belt or how she was thrown to the front of the car.

The 10-year-girl was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown out of the car through a passenger-side window but was not as badly hurt, according to Nunez.

“Shockingly, she was not the one in critical condition,” Nunez said of the 10-year-old. “It’s surprising that she walked away from it. It’s pretty violent to be ejected from a vehicle that way. It’s fortunate in some ways it wasn’t worse.”

The crash was reported just after 2 p.m. Monday and tied up traffic for about a half-hour. In total, six people were taken to the hospital, but only the 5-year-old girl was hurt critically, police said.

The Hyundai sedan that had stopped to turn left was driven by Shirley Stephens, 59, of Augusta, Nunez said. There was one passenger in that car.

Police are still investigating what caused the crash and whether charges should be filed. Nunez said that based on several factors, he thinks Hunnewell was distracted when it happened, but that he didn’t know what caused the supposed distraction.

“Based on the crash site and what witnesses stated, she did something where she didn’t pay attention,” he said. “There’s no way you can be going almost 50 miles per hour and not even pump the brakes.”

Attempts to reach Hunnewell on Friday were unsuccessful. A publicly listed phone number for her had been disconnected, and she did not respond immediately to a Facebook message.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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