Chase Atwater Death – The Maine State Police on Monday identified the driver and victim of a fatal motor vehicle crash that took place in the Washington County town of Steuben on Sunday. Chase Atwater, 18, of Steuben, was driving the 2013 Chevy Malibu that went airborne over a hill before crashing into a large tree on Unionville Road, police said. Atwater survived the crash, but his passenger, 17-year-old Cole Merchant, of Sullivan, died at the scene, Maine Department of Public Safety spokesperson Shannon Moss said. Atwater suffered minor injuries and was transported to a hospital.
The cause of the crash, which took place around 1:30 p.m., remains under investigation, but Maine State Police said speed appears to have been a factor. Merchant’s death represents another blow to this small, tightly knit Down East fishing community. The merchant was a senior at Sumner Memorial High School in Sullivan, the same school attended by Tylar Michaud, of Steuben.
Michaud, who had graduated from Sumner Memorial High School last spring, was found floating in the ocean near the town of Addison on Aug. 24 exactly one month after other fishermen found his lobster boat with no one on board. The discovery of Michaud’s body came just one day after friends and family gathered at Sumner Memorial High School in Sullivan for a celebration of Michaud’s life attended by several hundred people.
Friends started a gofundme campaign Monday to benefit Merchant’s family, saying the money will be used for funeral expanses and for time off taken from work to deal with their loss.
“Our community is here to support the Merchant family as they deal with the loss of a son, brother, a student, a bright light that is gone too soon. Cole Merchant was a senior at Sumner Memorial High School and was a promising mechanic. He was an outgoing, energetic, smart, funny, lovable kid that left his handprints in the hearts of everyone he met. His family wants his name to live on with great honor and pride,” wrote Dawn McPhail, who organized the fundraising campaign.