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Tractor explosion stuns community

BY HENRY BRIER | MEDINA, OHIO | August 5, 2001

"We had a prayer service for the community to come together to show support for victims and the families."

—Father Mark Hollis

Five people have died and a dozen others were still hospitalized more than a week following the explosion of an antique steam engine at the local county fair on July 30.

About 50 people were injured when the tractor exploded, burning people nearby with scalding water and spraying shrapnel from the 17-ton device.

The tractor's owner and his son were were among the fatalities, according to Lt. Thomas Del Regno of the Medina County Sheriff's Office who added two Medina city police officers would have been injured more seriously or killed had they not been wearing bulletproof vest.

"We had a prayer service for the community to come together to show support for victims and the families," Father Mark Hollis of St. Francis Xavier Church in Medina said Tuesday afternoon.

The explosion occurred around 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Del Regno said. Investigators said the explosion apparently occurred when water came in contact with hot metal in the engine, possibly due to a faulty guage.

He said experts from around the country have been calling to offer advice, information and services about how the boiler works and what might have happened.

Because that type of tractor is no longer used for industry or for farming, those who know the most about it are hobbyists and antique dealers.

"It's really a shame because they went through a lot of time and trouble to restore this thing," Del Regno said.

A total of 51 people were injured, some of whom were treated and released, according to Cheryl Rocco, emergency services director with the Medina Chapter of the American Red Cross. Nineteen people still were hospitalized as of Tuesday night.

"Many are still in children's hospital burn ward units," Rocco said, noting police officers are among the injured.

According to Tye Male, a leader at the First Baptist Church of Medina, about 200 area residents attended the memorial service.

"We wanted to offer people some hope, conciliation, and we wanted to come together as a community," Hollis said.

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