4 injured at Cowtown in horse-drawn wagon accident

In this file photo, a covered wagon with passengers is shown at Old Cowtown Museum.
In this file photo, a covered wagon with passengers is shown at Old Cowtown Museum. File photo

Three Andover second-graders and a parent volunteer got a wild ride and assorted bumps and bruises when a horse spooked and pulled the wagon they were riding in in sharp circles on the main street of Old Cowtown Museum, a city official said Friday.

The accident cut short a school field trip for students from Robert Martin Elementary School, and parents were called to pick up their children early.

The horses are getting a two-week suspension, with hay.

The wagon was parked in front of Cowtown’s “Saloon” building, and the passengers had boarded for a ride around the historical park of 19th-century buildings, which is owned by the city of Wichita.

No one’s sure why, but one of the two team horses spooked and tried to bolt, bringing the other along with him.

The wagon driver “turned him really sharply until she could get him to stop. She did the right thing,” said John D’Angelo, manager of arts and cultural services for the city.

“Basically, they did a doughnut” in the dirt street, he said.

The passengers in the back were thrown from their seats to the wooden floor of the wagon.

Park employees called in an Emergency Medical Service ambulance to evaluate the injuries, which is standard procedure whenever there’s an accident at Cowtown, D’Angelo said.

None of the injuries were serious, he said.

The wagon ride will be out of service for the next two weeks while all four of Cowtown’s draft horses are re-evaluated for suitability to their jobs.

Cowtown has two two-horse draft teams, which undergo retraining each winter to ensure they’re calm and steady enough to pull wagon-ride duty, D’Angelo said.

Horses have to cope with a lot of distractions at Cowtown – staged gunfights, brightly dressed dancers, music and shouting children, just to name a few, D’Angelo said.

“As many noises as there are out there, you don’t want horses that would spook easily,” he said.

The school district disclosed the accident in a letter to parents but declined to comment further, referring calls to the city.

Initial reports from the district were that four children had been injured, but D’Angelo later updated that to reflect it was three children and one adult.

The letter to parents from Principal Crystal Hummel said no other students had been in danger during the mishap.

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas