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Cemetery damage could be big

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Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2012 8:38 am | Updated: 11:59 am, Thu Sep 27, 2012.

GORHAM – A week after a car accident took out several dozen gravestones in White Rock Cemetery, Raymond Sampson is still trying to figure out just how much it will cost to fix them, and how to pay for it.

“We’re assuming it’s going to run into the thousands of dollars,” said Sampson, cemetery association president.

The accident that caused the damage at around 8:30 a.m. Sept. 20 happened when Dennis Worrall, 58, of Gorham, driving a 2006 Mercury Marquis on North Gorham Road, suffered what police believe to be a seizure. Police said he lost control of the car, which went through a cattle fence and careened through White Rock Cemetery, knocking over the stones.

“It looked like he cleared a swath,” said Sgt. Michael Nault of the Gorham Police Department.

Worrall was conscious and alert when police arrived, Nault said, and he was transferred to the hospital. No charges are expected.

Jocelia Hartwell, who lives near the cemetery and is one of the association’s trustees, said she and her husband estimated that Worrall’s car went for about 100 yards into the cemetery before he regained control of the car.

Last Thursday afternoon, the trail was clearly visible from the right corner, nearest the road, diagonally toward the left rear corner. The damaged stones included old slate panels dating back to the early 1800s, many sheared off and left in pieces.

“All these, we’ll have to piece together,” Hartwell said.

Near the end of the path of damage, a modern stone, marking the grave of Hartwell’s aunt, Ethel Shurtleff, was knocked clean off its base. Nearby, the tire tracks turned and lead to an access road. Next to the dislodged stone’s base, a pot of flowers remained undisturbed.

“They weren’t even touched,” Hartwell said.

Sampson estimated between 20-30 stones were damaged or destroyed, but the damage is so extensive, that it’s impossible right now to arrive at an exact number.

“Some of them were just shattered,” he said.

Sampson said the association has already contacted two different memorial companies for estimates on repairing the damage. No dollar figure is available yet, but Sampson noted that some modern stones cost about $2,000 and some of the 19th-century markers were made of marble.

The White Rock Cemetery Association operates the cemetery. It’s one of two cemeteries in Gorham that are not run by the town, Sampson said. That means the town will not be responsible for repairing the damage. Sampson said he hopes that Worrall’s auto insurance will contribute to the repairs.

“Whether that’s going to cover all of the damage or not, we don’t know that yet,” he said.

As for the remainder of the damage, Sampson said, it would take “a lot of bake sales” to pay for the restoration. The association, he said, will work out a more concrete plan for covering the repairs if necessary.

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