NEW HAVEN — The Addison County Fair and Field Days ended on a somber note Saturday evening when an elderly man was crushed by a wheel that detached from a tractor and flew into the crowd during the tractor pull.
Witnesses say as the tractor neared the end of the track, the left wheel broke away from the vehicle and rolled toward the crowd. The wheel struck a barrier made of cable and concrete, jumped about 10 feet in the air and landed on the elderly man, who has not been identified to the media.
Jim Foster, the president of the Field Days board of directors, said he did not know the victim’s name, and said he believed the man sustained a broken leg.
“It was a freak accident,” Foster said.
Addison County Sheriff Don Keeler was riding in a golf cart on the track and was nearly struck by the runaway tire. He said tractor fans had little time to get out of the way.
“It happened so quickly; I don’t think people had a chance to escape,” Keeler said. “I think the ones that missed it were just lucky.”
Keeler said he believed the elderly man was seated when the wheel — which was about 6 feet in diameter and weighed about 400 to 600 pounds — landed on him.
He added that rescue crews were already on scene in the event of an accident, and were quickly able to treat the man.
“There were a lot of first responders in the crowd, and they did a great job,” Keeler said. “One accident is too many, but if you look at it this way, it could have been a lot worse.”
Foster said to his knowledge, this is the first time a spectator has been severely injured while attending a Field Days event in the fair’s 66-year history. He said that the only other severe injury he could recall occurred 25 to 30 years ago, when a tractor driver was injured when the weight from a towed sled fell on him.
Foster said that both Addison County Fair and Field Days and the Vermont Tractor Pullers Association carry liability insurance.
Lisa Bowdish, the secretary of the Vermont Tractor Pullers Association, said the organization has been advised by an attorney not to answer questions about the incident. She declined to provide any details about what transpired Saturday evening.
Keeler said the sheriff’s department would file no report, as the accident did not occur on a public highway.
Benj Deppman, another member of the fair’s board of directors, said the board wishes the best for the injured spectator.
“We’re obviously very concerned, and we hope the person has a speedy recovery,” Deppman said.”