Five people hurt after stagecoach accident at Indiana State Fair

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INDIANAPOLIS — Four people injured after a stagecoach flipped over at the Indiana State Fair Sunday night, August 12th are out of the hospital. A fifth victim held overnight at IU Health Methodist Hospital is expected to be discharged Monday, August 13th.

Around 5 p.m. Sunday, the opening entertainment began before the 8-horse hitch competition inside the Pepsi Coliseum at the State Fairgrounds.

Matthew Hall videotaped the entertainment before the show.  “We had just sat down (and) here comes the stagecoach. They cued it to come right in,” Hall said.

“They were galloping around. They did one turn and they came around and did another turn and they were doing a figure eight and as soon as he started to turn towards the right towards us, the stagecoach flipped to the left and the horses stopped still,” said Laura McGinnis, who saw it all unfold.

The driver and the Indiana State Fair Queen, Erika Burghardt, were on the top of the stagecoach. Four people inside.

“It made a wide turn and about halfway through the turn, the stagecoach started giving way,” said Joe Bartlett, who was inside the Pepsi Coliseum when it happened.

Burghardt was thrown from the stagecoach. So was the driver, who is from Iowa and has 20 years of experience. Officials said the driver has owned that stagecoach for four years. He was treated onsite by medical personnel and was not taken to the hospital.

“As soon as that happened there were people there immediately. (There was) a gentleman (who) came out, grabbed the horses (to) keep (them) under control,” Hall said.

State officials said they had EMS personnel on standby who got to the accident within 20 seconds before other help arrived. State officials said the other people who were inside the stagecoach needed help getting out. In all, five people were taken to the hospital with minor injuries. The coliseum was evacuated.

“It was probably 10 or 15 minutes (later) they told everybody to get out,” McGinnis said.

Regarding their procedures, state officials said they immediately dealt with the people who were injured, secured the area and then made the decision to evacuate. 

“It’s too early to tell exactly what happened or what went wrong,” Chief Operating Officer David Shaw said.

Shaw said they made the decision to restart the competition at 6:30 p.m. after consulting with the State Fair director.

“I don’t know what the State Fair could have done to avoid this because it just looked like it was one of those things. It is eerie how close it is to the anniversary of that other tragic event (last year’s State Fair stage collapse). (It hasn’t been) two good years for the State Fair,” Bartlett said.