A 9-year-old girl who was critically injured in a three-car crash in Gorham on Sunday has been declared dead and is being kept on life support until her organs can be donated to help others, her family said Tuesday.

Raelynn Bell, who lived in Cumberland, was in the third-row of a Honda Pilot being driven by her father, Michael Bell. Two of her sisters also were in the vehicle. They were on their way home from a movie theater after watching “The Lion King” and had stopped at the intersection of Route 25 near Dow Road when an F-150 pickup truck slammed into their SUV from behind, said Faith Rose, the girl’s aunt.

Police said Wednesday they are still investigating the cause.

Six people were injured in the crash, and Raelynn was the most seriously hurt. She was transported by LifeFlight helicopter to Maine Medical Center in Portland. A legal pronouncement of death was made at 2:06 a.m. Tuesday, and since then, efforts have focused on finding organ donor matches, Rose said.

Michael Bell and his ex-wife, the children’s mother, Charity Chillington, have been by their daughter’s side since the crash, Rose said.

“Both my sister and Mike are amazing parents and co-parent fully and put them first at all times,” Rose said. “The loss of one of your children is not something you can even begin to understand unless you’ve been through it. Charity is trying to be strong for everybody because she has other children, other girls in the accident, so she is trying to be strong. They have not left the bedside of Raelynn. They have not left the hospital since Sunday.”

Raelynn’s family and friends will remember her as a radiant young girl who loved her three sisters and her brother, and who had a contagious laugh, said Amanda Marinko, a family friend. Marinko helped organize a fundraiser for the Bell family’s medical costs that had brought in more than $20,000 as of Wednesday evening.

The other two daughters who were in the vehicle were treated and released from the hospital, and are being cared for by other relatives, Rose said.

Raelynn attended the Mabel I. Wilson school in Cumberland. She completed the third grade in June. On Wednesday, school officials sent a notice to parents of her death.

Social workers will be made available at the school on Thursday from 1-3 p.m., the school district said.

“The loss of a child is the most tragic of all losses, as it defies the natural order of things,” Superintendent Jeffrey Porter wrote in the letter to parents in School Administrative District 51, which serves Cumberland and North Yarmouth. “Please join me in keeping Raelynn’s family in your thoughts during this difficult time.”

Police have remained mostly silent about the crash and its cause as they continue to investigate the circumstances. The 2011 F-150 pickup truck was being driven by Kenneth Morang, 61, of Standish, who has been cooperating in the investigation, police said.

Morang is a corrections officer at the Cumberland County Jail who clocked out at about half an hour before the crash and was presumably on his way home after a double shift, Sheriff Kevin Joyce said.

Morang had worked a total of 88 hours at the jail since the previous Sunday, with one day off last Tuesday, according to information provided by the sheriff’s office. Morang had worked two consecutive shifts of nearly 16 hours between Friday and Saturday, and then worked another nearly 16-hour shift starting about 11 p.m. Saturday that ended at 2:27 p.m., Joyce said. The crash occurred about 2:53 p.m., police said.

Attempts to reach Morang by phone were not successful Wednesday. Numbers listed for him in Standish did not work or there was no answer.

Gorham Deputy Chief Christopher Sanborn declined to discuss the circumstances of what may have led to the crash or whether Morang’s long hours were a factor, but said the crash is being reconstructed by investigators. He urged anyone who has information about what happened or who saw the crash to call police.

“I’m not going to answer any detailed questions, it’s too early at this time,” Sanborn said. “The crash is being reconstructed, and the detective division is working diligently on the investigation.”

There is no policy that governs a maximum number of hours a corrections office may work in any given week. Contractually, overtime shifts are offered either as anticipated openings because of scheduled vacations or time off, or on an emergency basis, and corrections officers have the opportunity sign up for extra shifts based on seniority. All of Morang’s overtime hours this week at the jail were voluntary, Joyce said.

Morang has no driving violations within the last 10 years, according to a review of state records.

 

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