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October is a time for apple cider, doughnuts, hayrides, and haunted houses. The last thing anyone expects is to be seriously injured or lose a loved one from being thrown off a hayride.

A Halloween-themed hayride in Maine turned tragic when a 1979 Jeep SUV pulling the hay wagon lost control Saturday night. The wagon careened down a hill, struck a tree and overturned. A 17-year-old girl was killed; more than 20 others were injured including the driver of the Jeep pulling the wagon. The incident marks the third hayride fatality in the U.S. this fall.

The accident occurred during the Gauntlet Haunted Night Ride at Harvest Hill Farm in Mechanic Falls, Maine, about 25 miles southwest of Augusta. The flatbed trailer was being pulled near a haunted house when it apparently missed a turn at the top of a hill. The trailer jackknifed and the Jeep went off the narrow, steep road. The trailer hit a tree, throwing its passengers to the ground. Authorities believe a mechanical problem prevented the SUV pulling the wagon from stopping. State police are looking to determine if the Jeep’s brakes were in working order and have been calculating the passengers’ weight to determine if the hay wagon was overloaded. The farm remains closed while an investigation is ongoing.

While state fire marshals inspect and license mechanical amusement rides, most states, including Maine, have no federal regulations in place for operating hayride and a license is not required. This means that innocent people are left in the dark about which ride is safe for their families; few are aware of the lack of government regulations until a tragedy like this occurs. Additionally, it is impossible to know the real magnitude of injuries that occur every year because farmers are not required to file accident reports on private property.

With or without government safety regulations, it is important to take steps to make sure you are done everything possible to put safety first. Although the season for hayrides will be coming to an end soon, following these tips can help keep you and your loved ones safe.

•Stay seated and do not hang over the sides. Although tractor trailers don’t have high speeds for hayrides, it is important not to risk rocking the trailer or throwing the weight off balance.
•Hold on to help ensure you won’t fall off the ride.
•Keep arms and legs inside the wagon.
•Do not throw straw.
•Make sure the hayride is at a complete stop before getting onboard or off.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

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