Helen Morgan at her father Jake Morgan’s bedside. / Courtesy photo
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – Claims for as much as $5 million in damages have been filed against Lewis County on behalf of two of the several people hurt when a runaway horse and carriage plowed through a crowd at the Southwest Washington Fair.
A lawyer representing John H. Morgan, 38, from Toledo, states that his client suffered a severe brain injury, multiple broken bones and contusions and has already undergone several surgeries.
“John is out of work for an unknown period of time and may not be able to return to work in the same capacity, if at all,” Tacoma attorney Lincoln Beauregard writes.
His 4-year-old daughter Helen Morgan – who was not moving after being struck, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office – suffered five facial fractures under her eyes and has permanent scarring, according to Beauregard. Her left arm was injured as well, he wrote.
The incident happened on the afternoon of August 19, a Friday during the six-day annual fair.
Authorities initially said only that a spooked horse took off running down the midway and four individuals were taken by ambulance to Providence Centralia Hospital. A fifth person went to the hospital in a private vehicle, according to the fire chief, and a recently released report indicates the owner of the horse was also hurt.
Lewis County owns and operates the fairgrounds and the fair.
A Lewis County Sheriff’s Office deputy compiled a report, for informational purposes and as assistance to fire and aid personnel.
Deputy Jeffrey Humphrey wrote he was standing near the sheriff’s office’s booth when he heard a horse pulling a buggy and it began trotting fast. He wrote that he saw people get hit, he gave chase and saw another person on the ground.
Then-Chief Deputy Stacy Brown, who had been with Humphrey, reported she also ran after the animal, noting the carriage was careening out of control behind it. She observed several injured people, she wrote.
Jennifer D. Adkinson later told the deputy she didn’t see it coming until the last minute, and pushed one of her small sons out of the way. Adkinson’s ankle was possibly broken, struck by what the Rochester woman suspected was the carriage, when she was interviewed at the hospital.
Brown and others were able to contain the horse near the north end of the midway, according to Brown’s narrative.
Chief Brown walked with the owner of the agitated horse to its stall and ensured it was confined there.
The owner, Carrie Swearingen, said her leg hurt from trying to stop the horse and carriage, but she was okay and declined aid, according to the incident report. Swearingen is from Dalles, Oregon, and was at the fair to give buggy rides to people, according to authorities.
The claims were filed with the Lewis County Risk Management office on Sept. 28, according to Risk Manager Paulette Young. Young said earlier this week, they’ve turned the claims over to the horse carriage company, for its insurance.
The Morgans were treated at Providence and also Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, according to their lawyer. He estimates damages for each in an amount between $2.5 million and $5 million.
Beauregard wrote that Lewis County’s liability is under investigation, as it may have contributed to the accident by “not installing proper safety measures.”
Chief Brown’s narrative gives some insight as to what may have occurred to startle the horse.
Brown wrote the horse, carriage and operator were standing in their normal location just north of the sheriff’s office’s booth.
“I observed the horse get spooked and jump, causing the carriage to rock back and forth behind it, which seemed to spook it even more,” Brown wrote. “The horse hit a large raised flower bed, causing it to fall over, which might have scared it even more.”
The horse owner told Brown she was standing next to her horse, Duramax, when a forklift drove by, spooking it, according to Brown. She said she wasn’t able to get the reins over the horse and couldn’t stop the horse as it bolted, according to Brown.
Brown further related that she saw a county forklift throughout the day carrying gates and other items, but she didn’t specifically recall seeing it next to the horse when the horse got spooked.
It’s unclear how many people were hurt during the incident.
Deputy Humphrey and Chief Brown’s reports list four known victims, plus the owner and no other witnesses. One of the four is a county employee.
The only other victim in their report is Thomas T. Mars, from Chehalis, who is also identified in the same report as Andrew T. Mars. He had a laceration near his elbow as well as scratches and/or road rash on his arms, back and both knees, according to Humphrey.
The Morgan family’s lawyer also submitted a claim for the same amount for wife and mother Emily Morgan.
“She continues to suffer from loss of consortium due to the severe injuries of her loved ones,” Beauregard wrote. She’s missing time from work to care for them and it’s unknown when she will be able to return, he wrote.
For background, read “Two of spooked horse victims on the mend, after fair accident” from Saturday August 27, 2016, here