CLINTON — Police are seeking help from the public in piecing together the events leading up to a crash that killed three youths Sunday in a one-car crash on Hinckley Road in that town and left two others, including the unlicensed driver, seriously injured.

Clinton police Chief Rusty Bell said Monday morning that he hopes other youths or people who had contact with those in the car prior to the crash will contact his office at 426-9192 or via its Facebook page.

“If anybody has any information about the circumstances that led up to this, or if any of the people in the car had contact with people, please let us know as soon as possible,” Bell said.

Killed in the crash were Thomas Porfirio, 15, Emily Baker, 14, and her sister, Ashlin Baker, 12, who were found dead in the car when emergency workers arrived, police said. Injured were the driver of the car, whom police have not yet named, and Nevaeh Wilson, 12. All are from Clinton, according to Bell. The driver’s name is not being released as police and the district attorney’s office investigate.

REMEMBERING THE VICTIMS

As the Clinton and Lawrence High and Junior High School communities mourned Monday, those who knew the youths who died talked lovingly of them and their personalities.

Emily Baker, 14, was one of three kids found dead in a car that crashed on the Hinckley Road in Clinton Sunday morning. Contributed photo

Vicky Bowring, who lives with the Baker family, said Emily and Ashlin were “wonderful, wonderful, wonderful girls,” and best friends with Bowring’s daughter, who also lives with the family.

“Emily was super outgoing — not a bit shy,” Bowring said. “She loved everybody and everybody loved her. There was nothing she wouldn’t try and was very social. That was her life — her friends. She was very adventurous and loved to pull pranks.”

Bowring said Ashlin was sweet. She could be shy at first but once you  got to know her, her personality shone through. Like her sister, she also loved to pull pranks.

“Ashlin loved animals,” Bowring said. “She was vegan. She couldn’t stand that an animal was going to be hurt. She loved her dog, big Brutus.”

The sisters were very close and more so over the last few months, according to Bowring.

“It was basically over hanging out with friends. They had a lot of the same friends, and boys, they loved boys.”

Ashlin Baker, 12, was one of three kids found dead in a car that crashed on Hinckley Road in Clinton Sunday morning. Submitted photo

Saturday night, Ashlin was supposed to have been at a friend’s house and Emily was supposed to have been home, according to Bowring.

“They weren’t supposed to be anywhere. We didn’t realize until 8 a.m. Sunday — we heard there had been an accident — it was definitely a big surprise.”

It is not lost on Bowring, who also was grieving Monday, that she could have lost her daughter.

“I just thank God she hadn’t gone with them that night,” she said.

As a teenager and near-teen, Emily and Ashlin were stretching their wings, she said, but did not do anything typical girls wouldn’t do.

“They were testing their limits; unfortunately at that age you do that. Unfortunately, they made a bad decision.”

The girls’ mother, Samantha Baker, and their 10-year-old brother, are having a difficult time, according to Bowring, who said the children’s father died in November in an accidental drowning.

“It’s minute-to-minute,” Bowring said of their mother. “One minute she’s OK and it hits her, and it’s bad. It’s very painful to watch her face.”

The family, Bowring said, is grateful for all the community support, which has helped tremendously. Services for the girls are expected to be at the Williamson Arts Center at the high school, though a date and time was not set by Monday afternoon.

Thomas Porfirio, 15, killed in the crash in Clinton Sunday, was described by Ashley Idamae Pouliot, as “an all around fun loving kid, had many friends and enjoyed baseball very much.” Photo courtesy of Ashley Idamae Pouliot

Meanwhile, Ashley Idamae Pouliot, who was married to Porfirio’s brother and is still close to the family, posted messages about Thomas on Facebook. Contacted Monday for comment about Thomas, she replied, via Facebook: “Tommy was an all around fun loving kid, had many friends and enjoyed baseball very much. He played from teeball thru the end of his young life. His father and older two brothers avidly coached him and he followed tradition in their steps. His sister, Jenna, and her husband, Tom, live on the ocean and Tommy enjoys spending a lot of time there. He also spent a lot of time with his niece and nephew, Jocelyn, and Vinnie, who are mine and Tommy’s brother, Josh’s, two children. His parents were super involved in all our lives and are just such great people.”

Porfirio and Emily Baker attended Lawrence High School and Ashlin Baker attended Lawrence Junior High School.

Roberta Hersom, interim superintendent for Maine School Administrative District 49, said the schools were taking Monday to address the immediate shock of the incident.

“For today we’re just doing all we can to make sure students are safe and have the support they need,” Hersom said Monday in a phone interview. “This is an unimaginable, crushing thing and we’re working through these first steps today.” 

Counselors were available to students Monday, according to a post made to the MSAD49 Facebook page.

Hersom said that as of right now, there are no plans for a vigil or fundraiser, but she expects that to change.

“The community will soon want to help in some way, particularly the students will want to help,” Hersom said. “I fully expect that to come. I’ve had some community members reach out already wanting to start some fundraising for the families.” 

INVESTIGATION CONTINUES

The driver in the crash attends Lawrence High School and Wilson attends Lawrence Junior High School.

The driver, who suffered a broken collar bone, and Wilson, were taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where Wilson was to undergo surgery for a broken femur and a possible broken hip, Bell said.

Bowring, the friend of the Baker family, said Wilson suffered a broken pelvis, femur and wrist, has a knee injury and was still in the hospital Monday. The driver of the car, however, was back at home, she said.

The crash, reported at 7:15 a.m. Sunday, occurred on Hinckley Road, 6 miles from Route 23 and 2 miles from downtown Clinton, when the 2007 Toyota Corolla apparently struck a patch of ice and crashed into a large pine tree. The impact with the tree was on the passenger side of the car, according to police.

Clinton police are the primary investigators in the case, and they are receiving help from State Police. The Clinton, Fairfield and Burnham fire departments also were at the scene.

Bell said he believed the car was traveling east at the time of the crash. Police were working Monday to gather information and piece together the events that led up to the fatal crash, including any conversations that the youths had on social media or with other friends about their plans.

“Early indications are that they had made a plan to sneak out and ride around,” Bell said.

He said that it appeared parents notified of the crash were unaware the children were not in their beds.

“Police believe that the parents they have talked to didn’t know their children were not home,” he said.

He said police have identified the person to whom the Toyota is registered.

“I haven’t talked to her yet,” he said. “It appears that it is his (the driver’s) mom’s car, but I haven’t confirmed that the person is his mom.”

Bell visited the homes of those who died Sunday to notify parents of the crash, and stayed with them until other family members could get there. He then visited them again a few hours later.

“They’re doing as good as could be expected,” he said.

Bell said police are trying to determine where in the car the victims were sitting prior to the accident.

State police assisted his department with “in-depth technical help,” he said.

“They’ll be back to do all the vehicle stuff — the vehicle autopsy — and all of that part of the reconstruction,” he said Monday morning. “They’re giving us as much help as we need.”

Bell said he understands the public’s need to know what happened, but before releasing more information, he and his officers are working on a list of everyone they should contact and making sure they have solid information to impart.

“As you can imagine, we need to really do this right because three children have been killed,” he said. “So, we want to balance everyone’s grief process in a very thorough and detailed investigation. I just don’t want to put stuff out there ….”

As is protocol in such crashes, officials check to see if alcohol was involved.

“The toxicology results are pending,” Bell said. “All of the people that are deceased will be tested and the operator was tested yesterday, and it will be delivered to the lab this morning.”

Bell said he and the Porfirio and Baker families were scheduled to meet Monday with Lawry Brothers Funeral Home, in Fairfield, which is working on arrangements.

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said there is no record that the driver had either a driver’s license or learner’s permit.

He said State Police frequently do not deal with crashes that involve unlicensed teen drivers.

“It happens on occasion, but it is not frequent,” he said. “The vast majority of teens have either a permit or a new license. Both have restrictions on them because of their new driving status.”

In Maine, teens between 15 and 17 can apply for a learner’s permit after they have taken a driver education course. While driving with a permit, they must be accompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 20 and has had a license for two years. The licensed driver must be in the seat beside the driver. Teens with a learner’s permit must complete 70 hours of driving – including 10 hours after dark – before they can apply for a driver’s license.

The minimum age to get a Maine driver’s license is 16 as long as the teen has completed a driver education course.

Newly licensed teen drivers also have restrictions for the first 270 days after a license issued. During that time, drivers younger than 18 cannot have passengers other than immediate family members unless they are accompanied by a licensed driver.

Meanwhile, friends and family of Porfirio and the Bakers have set up GoFundMe pages to help with funeral expenses. As of 4:30 p.m. Monday, $15,883 of the $15,000 goal for the Bakers had been raised, and $2,700 of a $10,000 goal for Porfirio had been raised.

A fundraiser for Porfirio and the Bakers has been scheduled for Feb. 18 and 19 at the Dairy Queen on Kennedy Memorial Drive in Waterville, where 25% of all purchases will be donated to the families, according to Pouliot.

Danielle Sullivan, who grew up in Clinton, is the owner of DMS Decals & Vinyl Designs and is selling stickers on Etsy to help raise money for the Baker and Porfirio families.

The stickers display the Lawrence bulldog mascot with the words “Bulldog Strong” printed on it and will be sold for $6, with $5 from every purchase donated to the families.

Bell said at 2:30 p.m. that he did not expect to have any more information to release Monday about the case.

Morning sentinel reporter Molly Shelly and Portland Press Herald reporter Gillian Graham contributed to this story.

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