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Westport Girl Killed in Maine Was on Camp Trip

WESTPORT, Conn. – A horseback riding trip in Maine ended tragically for 12-year-old Westport student Tess Meisel on Wednesday morning after a tractor-trailer crushed the rear-end of a minivan in which she was a passenger.

Tess, the daughter of residents Gary and Suzanne Tanner Meisel, was one of four campers from Camp Jewell YMCA in Colebrook, Conn., participating in a horseback riding adventure in Maine. On Wednesday morning, the campers and two staff members were on their way to a park in Vermont from Acadia National Park when the accident occurred.

"Our Camp Jewell YMCA minivan, as we understand it, was stopped at a red light at an intersection in Farmington," Maine, James Morton, president and CEO of the Greater Hartford YMCA, said in a phone interview Wednesday. "When the tractor-trailer turned, part of the trailer overturned and landed on the rear left quarter of the van."

That's where Tess was seated, Morton said. Two other campers, Westport resident Samantha Galvao, 13, and 15-year-old Samantha Hollander of Wilton, were injured. They were treated at Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington and released later in the day, Morton said.

"This is an unfortunate tragedy," he said. "A beautiful life was lost."

One of the staffers, driver Charles Powell, 23, of Colebrook, was also injured and taken to the hospital, Maine Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland told the Sun Journal, a newspaper in Maine. The driver of the tractor-trailer, identified as 53-year-old Charles Willey, was also hospitalized, McCausland said.

Tess would have started eighth-grade this fall. She played violin in the Coleytown Middle School Chamber Orchestra, a select group, according to the school's 2010-11 yearbook.

At school, Tess was known for her love of the environment. "[Tess] really cared about recycling and taking care of the environment," said Gabriella Marone, an incoming freshman at Staples High School who knew Tess. "She even made her own website."

In November 2009, Tess and her global warming blog were featured on Patch. She was again recognized in the news in May 2010 after she won an award during the Connecticut Invention Convention.

"She was really smart and really nice," Marone said. "She was also a great speaker. All the teachers loved her."

Did you know Tess Meisel? Please leave a memory or condolence below.

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