Two thousand five hundred people showed up for the funeral of 60-year-old Janet Steines in Springbrook, Iowa at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church on Friday, July 9th. The turnout is remarkable, considering that the population of the entire town of Bellevue, Iowa, where Mrs. Steines was the victim of runaway horses during a Fourth of July parade, is only 2,350 residents. The Heritage Day Parade, a 10-year-old tradition, attracted 10,000 spectators; the uncontrolled path of the horses stretched for 6 blocks.
Janet Steines, who was pronounced dead at University of Iowa Hospitals after the accident, was the wife of the horse-and-buggy driver Mardell Steines. She is so far the sole fatality of the freak Fourth of July incident in which runaway horses plowed into a large crowd of spectators lining the Fourth of July parade route. At least 5 others of the 24 victims aged 2 to 62 were critically injured. Mrs. Steines was thrown from the buggy driven by her husband, Mardell.
As the horses paraded down Riverview Street in Bellevue (their placement near the back of the parade) they bumped heads. The bridle of one horse fell off. Therefore, the driver of the horse and buggy could not control the team. The horse and buggy ran approximately 6 blocks, went up on the sidewalk where spectators lined the street and returned to the street, before plowing into the back of a van.
At least 24 people were hurt, including Mrs. Steines. One of the children injured critically was Jessica Mack of Bettendorf, Iowa, a four-year-old in the city where I once owned and operated the Sylvan Learning Center. (There was no report Friday on Jessica Mack’s current condition.)
In addition to Jessica, at least two other 4-year-olds were injured in the unusual accident, including 15 other children; 5 of the victims’ were injured critically.
Equally remarkable was Mayor Murray of Bellevue’s reaction towards the man driving the horses. Said Bellevue Mayor of Mardell Steines: “He’s a very accomplished horseman — He’s a fixture in our parade. We’re proud of his participation.”
In fact, Mayor Murray made it clear that he wants to invite Mardell Steines to return to next year’s Fourth of July parade and does not hold him responsible for the freak accident. He pointed to Mardell Steines earlier in the day parallel parking the horses and buggy, which he had performed prior to the parade, saying, “You don’t do that with untrained horses or an untrained horseman.”
Certainly driving a team of horses is expertise that is not common in today’s world. I remember when my father drove the team of Clydesdale horses from the Budweiser Beer Corporation in the Independence, Iowa, Sesquicentennial Celebration. As the town banker and President of the Security State Bank, the bank paid to bring the famous Clydesdale horses to Independence from St. Louis for the parade. There was also a fly-over by the Blue Angels precision flying team and then-Governor of Iowa Robert Ray was present and spoke. Dad, who grew up on a farm with 8 siblings and was familiar with the skill set necessary to drive a team of horses commented, after the parade, about the strength necessary to keep the team of Clydesdale horses under control.
A Bellevue Parade Victims’ Fund has been established at Bellevue State Bank to help the injured. There have been promises of contributions from Jay Leno, the New York Yankees and others. Oprah Winfrey has been approached to contribute. One item for a silent auction planned to benefit the victims was a Grant Wood-signed copy of Sinclair Lewis’ novel Main Street. Wood’s illustrations can be found in the book, which is being donated by the Great River Gallery. The book is one of only 1,500 copies printed for members of the Limited Editions Club of Chicago in 1937, which originally sold for $750. It came from Quill and Brush, a bookstore specializing in antique and rare books.
Bellevue State Bank’s President, Mr. Daugherty, announced that at least a portion of the funeral expenses for Janet Steines, whose funeral was held on Friday, July 9, would be covered by the victims’ fund.
Sources: www.nytimes.com, “Horses Kill 1 and Injure 23 at Iowa Parade,” 7/4/2010, Anahad O’Conor; www.mylocalfox15.com, “Runaway Horses Kill 1, Injure 23 at Bellevue Parade”; KCRG, Channel 9 TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Quad City Times, “Parade Victim Laid to Rest,” by Brian Wellner, July 10, 2010, firstname.lastname@example.org; Quad City Times, “Bellevue Enlists Celebrity Help,” Brian Wellner, July 10, 2010, email@example.com.