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Runaway horse-drawn Christmas wagon ride near Willmar injures driver, passengers

WILLMAR, Minn. — The driver of a runaway horse-drawn wagon that was carrying passengers as part of a local Christmas light celebration Saturday, Dec. 10, is in critical condition after the wagon crashed in yard.

Some of the 15 passengers in the wagon were also transported by ambulance to Rice Memorial Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Most were treated and released, according to a news release from the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office.

The horse-drawn wagon ride was part of the popular "Celebrate the Light of the World" outdoor light festival Saturday night at the Chad and Angela Koosman residence north of Willmar. The event serves as a major fundraiser for the Salvation Army.

The wagon was used to take guests to an area on the sprawling grounds called "Santa's Den" for photographs with Santa Claus.

Passengers in the wagon told law enforcement that something spooked the horses that caused them to go out of control.

The horses bolted and pulled the wagon-full of people down Kandiyohi County Road 26 before turning north onto County Road 9.

The driver — who was not identified by the sheriff's department — attempted to regain control of the horses and was able to keep the wagon on the road without tipping into the ditch.

According to the sheriff's report, the out-of-control ride went about three-quarters of a mile north on County Road 9 and then turned into a driveway where the wagon collided with a basketball pole.

A portion of the pole struck the driver and knocked him out of the seat and into the back of the wagon.

At the same time, a portion of the wagon canopy and structure collapsed on the passengers.

The horses kept running as the basketball pole, backboard and hoop were drug behind the wagon.

The horses ran southbound on County Road 9 for about a quarter of a mile before a vehicle was able to slow, and then stop, the horses.

When law enforcement arrived at the scene at 7:20 p.m. the driver was unresponsive, had no pulse and was not breathing.

Life-saving measures were performed at the scene and he was transported to the emergency room at Rice Memorial Hospital, where he is in critical condition, according to the news release.