Medina, OH Tractor Exploses At Fair, Jul 2001

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FOUR MEN KILLED, ABOUT 50 INJURED WHEN TRACTOR EXPLODES AT OHIO FAIRGROUND.

Medina, Ohio (AP) - An antique steam-powered tractor exploded at a fairground, killing four men and injuring about 50 others a day before one of Ohio's oldest and largest county fairs was to officially open.
The blast, which hurled hot oil and shrapnel up to 100 yards away, came on the eve of the 156th Medina County Fair, an annual event which drew 120,000 people last year.
"Our sympathies go out to the people. My emotions right now are going crazy," said Fair President Dave Bertram. He said the fair would go on as scheduled Monday.
About 50 people were injured and fair-goers rushed to aid bloodied and blackened victims until they could be taken to hospitals.
"Everybody was just trying to help everybody out," said oncology nurse Patty Potts, 46, of Lodi.
Authorities kept people off the fairgrounds Sunday night as crews working under bright lights cleared scraps of burned metal from the exhibition area.
The dead were identified as:
CLIFF KOVACIC, 45.
his son, WILLIAM, 27.
ALAN KIMBLE, 46.
and DENNIS JUNGBLUTH, 58, all Medina County residents. Three of the men died at the scene, the fourth died at a hospital.
Gene Sulzener, the director of the Medina Life Support Team, which coordinates county emergency medical services, said those who survived suffered mostly burns and broken bones from the shrapnel.
The tractor that exploded was to be part of an outdoor exhibit on steam powered engines, said Sheriff
Neil Hassinger. The tractor, which was built in 1918, had been used for spring plowing, he said.
Authorities said it was not clear what caused the explosion, though steam buildup was possibly to blame. No foul play was suspected, said Hassinger.
The injured included two police officers who were about the cite the tractor's driver for operating the vehicle on city streets, Fire Chief Bill Herthneck told The Medina County Gazette in Monday's editions.
The officers were standing by the engine and talking to the driver when the explosion occurred about 6:30 p.m., he said. A city ordinance forbids such vehicles on paved roads.
Last year, about 30 people who attended the fair or an attraction at the fairgrounds later in the year became ill with E. coli, an intestinal bacterium that causes cramps, diarrhea and, in extreme cases kidney failure. No one died.
A report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested that water and ice used by food vendors may have become contaminated with standing water from the animal barns.
The fair was only open for setup and horse races Sunday, and was not scheduled to officially begin until Monday. The gates were open to all, however, and most were either leaving the races or bringing sheep and cows to the fair's stables for livestock contests later in the week.
"It sounded like a big boom. I heard all kinds of people crying, people screaming," said Brian Witt,
15, of Medina, who was watching a bird-judging competition Sunday and suffered burns to his arms and face.
Medical helicopters from as far away as Pittsburgh transported the injured to hospitals. Surgeons were aboard some of the helicopters, said county Coroner Neil Grabenstetter.
Children's Hospital Medical Center of Akron said it admitted 10 people, four of whom were critically injured, a nursing supervisor said. Most had suffered shrapnel injuries, broken bones and burns.
Medina General Hospital said it treated 19 people; Akron General Medical Center took in three; Wadsworth Rittman Hospital treated seven; MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland admitted six; Southwest General Health Center in Middleburg Heights attended to three, and one person was treated at Lodi Community Hospital.
Events at the fair, about 25 miles southwest of Cleveland, include harness racing, concerts, tractor pulls, animal shows, fireworks and rides.

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