Driver of horse-drawn wagon suffered heart attack during accident
WILLMAR, Minn. -- A horse-drawn wagon driver was still in critical condition Dec. 12 evening, two days after his wagon carrying 15 passengers crashed during a Christmas light celebration near Willmar.
WILLMAR, Minn. - A horse-drawn wagon driver was still in critical condition Dec. 12 evening, two days after his wagon carrying 15 passengers crashed during a Christmas light celebration near Willmar.
Little information has come to light as to how the horses may have been spooked, which witnesses said sent the horses bolting for about a mile before crashing into a basketball pole.
But a Salvation Army representative said Dec. 10 that, according to family, driver Fred Zwart had a heart attack sometime during the crash. He also suffered a back injury.
Salvation Army media spokesman Jeffrey DeMars did not give a time frame as to when the heart attack or back injury occurred during the accident.
Zwart, of rural New London, and his horse-drawn wagons are well-known in the area and are seen frequently at community events.
According to a news release issued early Sunday, Zwart had attempted to regain control of the horses. A passenger told law enforcement that the driver did a "good job" of keeping the wagon on the road without tipping into the ditch.
Ultimately, the out-of-control horses and wagon turned into a driveway and crashed into the pole, which struck Zwart and knocked him out of his seat into the back of the wagon.
Zwart was unresponsive, had no pulse and was not breathing when law enforcement arrived at the scene at 7:20 p.m. Dec. 10, according to a news release from the Sheriff's Office.
Life-saving measures from emergency responders were performed at the scene. Zwart was transported to Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar and later Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, where he has since been listed in critical condition, according to a media representative from the hospital.
Some of the 15 passengers in the wagon were also transported by ambulance to Rice Memorial Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Most were treated and released, according to the Sheriff's Office.
The wagon ride was part of the popular "Celebrate the Light of the World" outdoor light festival at the Chad and Angela Koosman residence north of Willmar that serves as a major fundraiser for the Salvation Army.
The wagon was being used Saturday to take guests to an area on the sprawling grounds called "Santa's Den" to be photographed with Santa Claus.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the all families who were riding the carriage and the driver and his family involved in the horse and carriage accident last night," a Sunday morning social media post stated from the event's official Facebook page.
The festival that runs daily during the holiday season closed early Saturday night after the accident but has since been open again.