Second Lawsuit Filed in Last Year's 4th of July Bellevue Parade Accident

By Trish Mehaffey, Reporter

MAQUOKETA, Iowa - A second lawsuit was filed last month against a Spragueville man for his horses stampeding through a crowd at a Fourth of July parade last year, in which more than 30 spectators were injured and his wife died in the tragic accident.

The civil suit filed by Kevin and Lee Armstrong, parents of injured 6-year-old Teagan Armstrong, Feb. 23 in Jackson County District Court claims the horses owner Mardell Steines and the City of Bellevue were negligent and seeks damages, along with interest and costs of the lawsuit, and demands a jury trial.

The suit claims Steines was negligent in operating and handling the horses, failing to properly train them, using unsafe horses for the parade, using improper tack and failing to maintain control of the horse drawn carriage.

The suit also claims the City was negligent for failing to maintain a safe parade route, failing to protect pedestrians, failing to maintain control of the carriage and failing to have an emergency plan.

Teagan Armstrong has suffered from injuries resulting from the stampede and will continue to suffer injuries and damages from the accident, the suit contends.

Patrick Woodward, Steines' Davenport attorney, didn't return a phone messages this week.

Tim Semelroth, Armstrong's Cedar Rapids attorney, referred calls to Thomas Chute, a Chicago attorney handling the case. Chute didn't return phone messages this week.

Steines, who's wife Janet, 60, died when she fell from the buggy as the horses broke free, is also being sued by another parent of an injured child, Steven Mack, of Bellevue. Mack's 4-year-old daughter Jessica, was injured that day.

According to that lawsuit filed last August in Jackson County District Court, Jessica suffered "severe and permanent" injuries.

Jessica suffered swelling of her brain because of a skull fracture and was in a coma for several days after the accident, according to a blog post last year by the family on CarePages, a website for patients and their families to share their treatment or condition.

The Mack lawsuit claims Mardell Steines was negligent and states several similar claims listed in the Armstrong suit, and also asks for damages and a jury trial.

James Morici, Mack's Chicago attorney, didn't return a phone message this week.

A settlement conference is set March 16, 2012 and a trial date is set May 7, 2012 in the Mack lawsuit.

Bellevue Police released an investigation report last July explaining the horses were likely spooked that day but said it was impossible to determine an exact cause.

The report revealed that one of the two horses had to be put down because of three fractures to its leg.

Police Chief Lynn Schwager said in July some witnesses had speculated birds swooping around the horses may have spooked them, "but there is no evidence to support this at this time."

According to the investigation report, one of the horses pulling the Steines buggy became agitated and rubbed its head against the left horse or its rigging, partially dislodging its bridle. One of Steines' sons, Craig, attempted to replace the bridle but the horse dipped its head, completely dislodging the bridle.

Craig Steines and his brother Kevin, along with their mother, attempted to restrain the horses but couldn't as they ran down Riverview Street for about a block until they hit a van at State Street.
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