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Father of Girl Hurt at Bellevue Parade Sues Carriage Driver

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The father of a little girl trampled by a pair of runaway parade horses and hospitalized with skull fractures is suing the horse operator who lost his wife in the tragedy.

Steven Mack, a Bettendorf orthodontist, filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Jackson County against Mardell Steines, of Spragueville.

Steines, who could not be reached for comment Friday, had the reins of the horses during the Fourth of July Heritage Days parade in Bellevue when, police said, they were spooked possibly by swooping birds and stampeded several blocks through town dragging a carriage.

The horses and carriage ran over dozens of people. At least 22, more than half of them children, were treated at area hospitals.

Mack's 4-year-old daughter, Jessica, was sent to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. Her injuries were "severe and permanent," the lawsuit states, adding that she "will be hindered and prevented from attending to her usual duties and affairs of life."

The horse operator's wife, Janet Steines, 60, died from her injuries after she was thrown from the carriage.

One of the horses suffered three leg fractures and was later put down.

Mack could not be reached for comment Friday.

His attorney, Hector Lareau of Moline, referred questions to Jim Morici, a lawyer based in Chicago, who did not return calls.

Since the accident, Steven Mack and his wife, Stacey, have recorded their daughter's treatment and rehabilitation in a blog on the CarePages website. Jessica is at home and undergoing outpatient therapy five days a week, the Macks wrote July 29, their latest entry.

According to the blog, Jessica suffered swelling of the brain because of the skull fractures and was in a coma for several days following the accident.

"This has been the biggest nightmare of our lives," the Macks wrote in one of their first entries on July 6, two days after the accident.

"She has gone from having difficulty sitting up and barely being able to stand for 30 secs to standing with no problems ... to walking holding 2 hands to walking only holding 1 hand," they wrote on July 16.

The blog has received nearly 1,964 well-wishing messages since it began.

The lawsuit lists eight "careless and negligent" acts and omissions by Steines, including failing to properly train the horses, failing to inspect the rigging and bridles and failing to have a groom lead the horse-drawn carriage.

The lawsuit also states Steines failed to properly control the horses or regain control after they were spooked.

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