Driver in Cape Elizabeth Recycling Center death will not face charges

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Cumberland County district attorney will not seek criminal charges against the driver who struck and killed the town’s former Public Works director at the Recycling Center on Nov. 24, 2014.

Herbert Dennison, 79, died when Christine Sharp-Lopez, 72, backed into him with her vehicle. Dennison was knocked into the two-story trash hopper at the Recycling Center.

Cape Elizabeth Police Chief Neil Williams on Wednesday said no more information can be released about the case unless Sharp-Lopez allows it.

Tamara Getchell, the business and communication coordinator for District Attorney Stephanie Anderson, said because there is no complaint information, the case is filed under “confidential criminal history information” and details of the investigation will not be made public.

“We can’t provide that information, as it is protected information,” Getchell said.

Williams in December attributed the accident to driver error. Tests determined there was no vehicle malfunction and blood tests showed  Sharp-Lopez was not impaired at the time of the accident.

Director of Public Works Robert Malley on Nov. 25 said one car was already pulled up to the hopper when Sharp-Lopez approached. Williams said Dennison was walking up to the hopper, rather than driving up to it, because his vehicle was towing a trailer.

The trash hopper is in the bottom of a two-story shed built on the side of a plateau at the Recycling Center. With the traffic pattern at the time of the accident, vehicles approached from above, where there was room for three cars or pick-up trucks to back in and drop trash down into the hopper.

A new traffic pattern with no backing up went into effect Jan. 21 at the Recycling Center. The new pattern, which includes four diagonal parking spaces outside of the trash compacter building, was suggested by consultants from Woodard and Curran after the firm completed a safety evaluation last month.

Town Manager Michael McGovern on Jan. 5 said the new pattern is a short-term solution and he expects the town to implement a permanent change at the Recycling Center within a year and a half.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.