“We had an employee of the Nebraska State Fair who had been delivering supplies over to the Swine Barn.She was backing up with the assistance of another person,” explained Nebraska State Patrol Lt. Dennis Leonard.
Leonard said as the UTV backed up, an 8-year-old girl from Engleman Elementary in Grand Island, one of thousands of students taking part in Nebraska's Largest Classroom events at the fair, was rushing to catch up to her class. Signs kept the girl from seeing the UTV, and her path kept her in both the driver and helper's blind spots until it was too late. The Gator backed over the girl, breaking her leg.
“There was no indication of negligence, carelessness on anybody's part, in fact probably a little heightened safety there by having someone else directing the UTV back,” says Leonard. “It was just a terribly unfortunate accident.”
Leonard said the NSP investigated the incident as they do all serious injuries or other problems during the fair.
State Fair Executive Director Joseph McDermott said they have rules for where their UTVs and golf carts can be and how they should be driven. He said the employee was following them.
“Each individual that drives that type of a vehicle on the grounds is required to read and sign those policies, rules, regulations,” said McDermott.
McDermott said they will be reviewing those standards after the fair and see if adjustments should be made. He said he also sent employees a safety reminder email after Monday's incident.
“The staff, and really anybody that's driving that type of a vehicle, needs to be aware of their surroundings, and we ask them to make sure they are,” he said.
McDermott said between the State Fair, vendors, security, and emergency personnel there are probably 90 such vehicles on the grounds.
“We've been fortunate in that this is the first time we've had an accident involving this type of a vehicle here in Grand Island,” said McDermott.
McDermott and Leonard both said they didn't want to minimize this accident, but Leonard likened the fair to a city in a small area. With thousands of people in one place, he said there are always safety risks.
“Lot of opportunities I guess you might say for accidents and the fact that they are so rare is a reflection I think that's favorable upon all those that are preparing the safety plan out here,” said Leonard.
A spokesperson for Grand Island Public Schools said they have no comment, also calling the situation unfortunate, and said they are glad their student will be okay.
Leonard said doctors expect the girl to fully recover.