PORT CLYDE — The Knox County Sheriff's Office has enlisted the help of a mapping forensic expert from Kennebec County to help understand how a tragic crash in Port Clyde unfolded and why it happened. The Aug. 11 crash on a harbor wharf that took the life of young Massachusetts boy is under investigation as reconstructionists piece together evidence that includes positioning all the cars involved, victims’ locations, skid marks and other crucial pieces into a computer program that will produce a scaled version of what Chief Deputy Tim Carroll calls a “horrific accident.”
The family is from Cohasset, Mass. Deceased is 9 year-old Dylan Gold. Injured and still at Maine Medical Center are his mother, 50-year-old Allison Gold, and 6-year-old Wyatt Gold. Allison’s husband and the boys’ father, Howard Gold, was uninjured.
When the investigative analysis is done, Knox County will have a computer rendition of how, and how fast, the Nissan Infiniti G35X came down off the short hill that marks the end of Route 131 (Port Clyde Road) before it meets the Monhegan Boat Line wharf on Port Clyde Harbor.
As is now known, the sedan, operated by 61-year-old Cheryl Torgerson, of New York City, accelerated down the hill before hitting another vehicle, smashing into the corner of the Monhegan Boat Line shop, and then ramming into six other cars, and a family that was walking on the wharf. The family had just arrived on Saturday for their annual vacation on Monhegan.
Dylan, along with his mother and his brother, Wyatt, were walking along the wharf toward the Elizabeth Ann when Torgerson hit them, according to police reports. First responders and doctors, nurses and EMTs had converged on the wharf attempting to save Dylan, but he died in the ambulance on the way to a nearby field in Tenants Harbor, where a LifeFlight of Maine helicopter was waiting to airlift victims to Maine Medical Center in Portland. Allison Gold was at Maine Medical Center Monday morning undergoing surgery, according to Carroll.
Wyatt Gold is in stable condition, he said.
Monhegan lies approximately 10 miles offshore from Port Clyde. Torgerson was planning to catch the same boat to Monhegan as the Gold family.
According to the sheriff’s office, Torgerson, traveling alone, was cresting the hill when her car, for unknown reasons, accelerated and careened down the road, hitting the rear-end of a car that was parked in front of the Monhegan Boat Line building, the Sea Star Shop. That car then spun sideways and pinned 68-year-old Jonathan Coggeshall, of Port Clyde, against the building wall. He is reported to be in stable condition as of Aug. 12, said Carroll.
Elizabeth Sherrick lives just above the harbor, in line of sight of the wharf. She was working at her computer upstairs in her home when she heard a “terrific screech and horrendous bang, followed by people screaming.”
She stepped to the porch window and saw insulation and board flying along the wharf and “everybody racing to the little boy to help make him comfortable,” she said, Aug. 12.
She and her husband, Steve, watched as doctors, nurses and first responders, who happened to be in Port Clyde that afternoon, tended to Coggeshall, who was pinned against the building, and Dylan Gold. St. George and other area emergency personnel, meanwhile, were pouring onto the scene in their own cars.
Knox County Regional Communications, the county’s emergency dispatch center, was already fielding more than a dozen 911 calls, and calling available ambulances from Rockland, Thomaston and South Thomaston, as well as sheriff deputies, to the accident, which was first relayed as a car landing in the harbor.
“The ambulance came screaming within minutes,” said Sherrick.
Torgerson had apparently lost control of her sedan, and her airbag deployed upon impact with the first car she hit.
An airbag deployment can sometimes be like a punch in the face, said Carroll.
Torgerson’s car then spun off and continued along the wharf, striking a line of cars, ultimately coming to a stop at the seventh vehicle hit. In the midst of that horrific chaos, the Gold family was walking toward the boat.
Dylan Gold was immediately transported 3.5 miles in the St. George ambulance to the Tenants Harbor ballfield to meet LifeFlight, but he died along the way, according to Carroll.
“These things are never easy,” said Carroll, his voice catching in the middle of a television interview. “It gets harder to have a 9-year-old boy involved.”
The accident reconstruction and forensic mapping will help the sheriff’s office determine if there were mechanical issues associated with the Infiniti. Maine State Police personnel were in Port Clyde Sunday afternoon, as well, to investigate the car, which has since been towed to a garage in Warren for further analysis.
Part of the investigation entails determining if “there was a fault that caused this horrific accident,” said Carroll.
Deputies and other law enforcement also spent Sunday afternoon interviewing witnesses.
“We are still trying to determine what made this happen,” said Carroll. “What was that sequence of events that made all this happen.”
Torgerson remains in the area while the investigation continues. She was transported to Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport Sunday afternoon, treated and released.
According to the Kennebec County’s Sheriff’s Office, the accident reconstruction process is similar to a land survey. Forensic mapping involves identifying evidence and plotting their position via GPS. Then, a portable data collector downloads measurements and produces a scaled diagram of the scene.
The Elizabeth Ann had just arrived from Monhegan, said Capt. Jim Barstow, Monday. Barstow owns the Monhegan Boat Line with his son, Andy. Barstow said that a number of people were on the wharf and in town, because that is what people do on a summer Sunday afternoon. He had returned to Port Clyde Sunday evening from the Belgrade Lakes to find the normally peaceful harbor in a state of distress.
“It’s terrible,” he said. “I just can’t imagine losing a child.”
Carroll said first responders will schedule a debriefing in the coming weeks when it is convenient and appropriate for everyone to gather, he said.
St. George Fire/EMS, South Thomaston Fire/Ambulance, Thomaston and Rockland Fire/EMS were the medical professionals that responded to the scene and were assisted by Lifeflight of Maine, according to the sheriff’s office.
Editorial Director Lynda Clancy can be reached at Lyndaclancy@penbaypilot.com; 706-6657.