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Driver of horse-drawn wagon suffered heart attack during accident near Willmar

WILLMAR - A horse-drawn wagon driver was still in critical condition Monday evening, two days after his wagon carrying 15 passengers crashed during a Christmas light celebration near Willmar.

WILLMAR – A horse-drawn wagon driver was still in critical condition Monday evening, two days after his wagon carrying 15 passengers crashed during a Christmas light celebration near Willmar.

Little information has come to light as to how the horses may have been spooked, which witnesses said sent the horses bolting for about a mile before crashing into a basketball pole.

But a Salvation Army representative said Monday that, according to family, driver Fred Zwart had a heart attack sometime during the crash. He also suffered a back injury.

Salvation Army media spokesman Jeffrey DeMars did not give a time frame as to when the heart attack or back injury occurred during the accident.

Zwart, of rural New London, and his horse-drawn wagons are well-known in the area and are seen frequently at community events.

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According to a news release issued early Sunday, Zwart had attempted to regain control of the horses. A passenger told law enforcement that the driver did a "good job" of keeping the wagon on the road without tipping into the ditch.

Ultimately, the out-of-control horses and wagon turned into a driveway and crashed into the pole, which struck Zwart and knocked him out of his seat into the back of the wagon.

Zwart was unresponsive, had no pulse and was not breathing when law enforcement arrived at the scene at 7:20 p.m. Saturday, according to a news release from the Sheriff’s Office.

Life-saving measures from emergency responders were performed at the scene. Zwart was transported to Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar and later Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, where he has since been listed in critical condition, according to a media representative from the hospital.

Related Topics: ACCIDENTS
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