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Steam Engine Explosion Kills Four at a County Fair in Ohio

Aired July 29, 2001 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: This breaking news in Ohio, where an antique steam-powered tractor exploded this evening, killing three men and injuring dozens of people at a county fair near Akron. Hospital officials say many of the injuries are serious burns. The fire chief says one big problem was hot oil shooting out of the antique engine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM HERTHNECK, FIRE CHIEF: There's evidence of hot oil being pushed out of this thing probably 50 feet away, maybe 75 feet away, in big volumes, so anybody who was just walking by could have been very seriously burned. That's where we think most of these victims came from.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRAZIER: Joining us on the telephone with a live update now is Brian Dick, who is operations manager of CNN affiliate WJW TV. He has been on the scene. Brian, what can you tell us?

BRIAN DICK, WJW OPERATIONS MANAGER: Well, the latest news, Stephen, we have an update for you: there are now four confirmed dead here. The injury count is up to 35. Large spotlights have now been set up on the scene. I'm standing about 100 yards away from where this accident happened. And state, county and city investigators are on scene now, combing through things to try and determine exactly what the cause might have been.

FRAZIER: Witnesses on the scene, Brian, give any indication there was any warning that this engine was beginning to get under pressure, or something?

DICK: No. No. This apparently was total surprise that -- the tractor was being driven into this area where there are a lot of antique steam engines set up, and as it was being driven out, it apparently without warning just blew up, it threw shrapnel and pieces of hot metal at least 100 yards in different directions. As you mentioned earlier, people were burned severely. They had helicopters here from as far away as Pittsburgh to take away the injured, which have gone to numerous hospitals.

FRAZIER: Now, the fair hadn't officially opened for the kind of exhibit that this tractor was a part of, but there were people there because of horse racing?

DICK: Yeah, they had a preliminary event going on today with the harness racing. The fair actually opens tomorrow, you know, 100 percent. But there were a lot of people here that were setting up. There is various animal barns nearby, and of course this steam-powered display, and there were a lot of people who were in that area at the time this happened, which was approximately about 6:20 this evening.

FRAZIER: The fire chief was quoted as saying this was almost an instant event. We are now hearing from some hospital officials, Brian, of children with burns over large percentages of their bodies. Any details about that?

DICK: I don't know a lot about the children's injuries. We do know, of course, children were injured. I did see one little boy myself who looked like he had some minor burns. He was sitting a park bench, a medic attended to him, about a half-hour after the accident occurred, but they haven't given us any real hard numbers about the number of children injured.

FRAZIER: And finally, the county fair, we understand -- will this go on?

DICK: Yes. We talked -- I spoke with the fair person, the president of the fair board within the last hour, and they are saying that tomorrow the fair will be open. They will have this area where this accident occurred roped off, it will be closed, the steam-power display area will be closed, but other parts of the fairgrounds will be open, and at this point, they are going ahead with it.

FRAZIER: Brian, thank you. Brian Dick reporting there, operations manager from our affiliate WJW Television on the scene.

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