Illinois Fair Tragedy: Young Girl Dies after being hit in head by starting gate

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EFFINGHAM, IL – Heartbreak engulfed the Effingham County Fair on Sunday as a tragic accident claimed the life of a young girl attending a harness racing event. 

In a shocking turn of events, a starting gate’s arm crashed into the stands, striking 5-year-old Harper Finn in the head. She was immediately rushed to a local hospital, but due to the severity of her injuries, she was airlifted to a St. Louis hospital, where she tragically passed away later that night.

Fair officials responded promptly to the tragedy by postponing or canceling all remaining races for the day. The rest of the racing program has been canceled to respect the memory of young Harper Finn.

In a statement released by the Effingham County Fair management, they extended their deepest sympathies to Harper’s family and expressed their commitment to working closely with local law enforcement and emergency personnel during the investigation.

The Effingham County Sheriff’s Department has taken over the investigation to determine the cause of the tragic accident. The racing community has also shown support for Harper’s family through a GoFundMe page set up by the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association.

“Dear Horse Racing Community, Today, our hearts were shattered when a tragic accident happened to a beloved little girl, Harper,” the organization said.  “With tearful eyes and heavy hearts, we come to you, seeking your kindness and generosity to help her family. No amount is too small, and every donation will be deeply appreciated. Together, let’s rally around Harper and show her that she is surrounded by a caring and compassionate community. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.”

As the investigation unfolds, the focus remains on ensuring the safety and well-being of spectators and participants at future racing events. The loss of Harper Finn serves as a solemn reminder of the importance of stringent safety measures in the world of horse racing.

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