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Horses pulling a wagon for a holiday event near Willmar went out of control

A holiday ride went off course when the horses got spooked.
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Horses pulling a wagon for a holiday event near Willmar this weekend took passengers on a terrifying ride.

One man is in critical condition after the horse drawn wagon went out of control, according to a news release from the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office.

Passengers said in reports that an unknown source spooked the horses, who took off running onto County Rd 26 and then County Rd 9 for about three-quarters of a mile as the driver tried to regain control. One passenger noted that the driver did a good job of keeping the wagon from falling into the ditch.

Then the wagon turned into a driveway and crashed into a basketball pole, striking the driver and knocking him off his seat into the wagon, the sheriff's report says. At the same time, the wagon collapsed on the passengers.

But the horses kept going, with the basketball backboard, hoop, and pole dragging behind as they headed back out onto County Rd 9 heading Southbound for another quarter mile before a vehicle was able to slow and then stop the horses.

Authorities say there were about 15 passengers on the wagon, which was part of the annual "Celebrate the Light of the World" outdoor light festival north of Willmar, a fundraiser for the Salvation Army. Several passengers were treated for non-life threatening injuries.

The driver was found unresponsive with no pulse and not breathing - he was taken to Rice Hospital and later transported to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he is in critical condition.

Sources close to the driver have identified him as Fred Zwart of rural New London, West Central Tribune said. Zwart and his horse-drawn wagons are well-known in the area and often participate in community events, the paper noted.

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