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Originally published Sunday, July 24, 2011 at 10:57 PM

44 injured in hayride wreck on Shaw Island

Forty-four members of at least two church youth groups were injured Sunday during a hayride on Shaw Island when a tractor pulling a trailer jackknifed and threw passengers onto a road.

Seattle Times staff

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SHAW ISLAND —

Forty-four members of at least two church youth groups were injured Sunday during a hayride on Shaw Island when a tractor pulling a trailer jackknifed and threw passengers onto a road.

Four people suffered serious injuries and were airlifted off the island, said San Juan County Sheriff Rob Nou. An additional five to 10 people were taken to the hospital in private vehicles, he said. A Washington state ferry was diverted to transport them to the mainland.

The youth groups had been helping out at Our Lady of the Rock Monastery for about a week, said Patrick Shepler, a paramedic at Orcas Island Fire and Rescue who responded to the accident.

This was supposed to be a carefree ride around the island, and the youths were going to have lunch and go to the beach, said Alex MacLeod, who was the first emergency medical technician to arrive on the scene from Shaw Island. "It was the one fun thing they had," he said.

But the joy ride went awry when the person driving the tractor headed down the island's steepest hill on Hoffman Cove Road. The 12-foot-wide hill is compacted gravel and has a 5 percent downgrade, Nou said. The hay trailer carrying about 50 people gained speed.

"The trailer did not have brakes and was literally pushing the tractor down the hill," Nou said. Then the front axle of the trailer failed, spilling passengers.

When people are thrown between a tractor and a wagon "you would have broken bones, sprains and lacerations," MacLeod said. Serious injuries that couldn't be treated at the scene were taken to Harborview Medical Center, PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center and Island Hospital in Anacortes.

Shaw Island EMTs and volunteer firefighters responded to the incident around 11:20 a.m.

Shepler and EMTs from Orcas Island were called over later in the afternoon and evaluated the approximately 30 people who remained on the island, Shepler said.

"The bulk of the patients had abrasions, aches and pains and just needed to receive a paramedic evaluation," Shepler said.

The accident remains under investigation. The police are looking into the heavy load of people and logs for seating that were piled on the trailer, along with maintenance of the tractor and trailer, Nou said.

The church youth groups could not be identified. At Our Lady of the Rock Monastery, a spokeswoman who declined to give her name said of the incident, "It was so out of proportion, everybody is fine. That's all we can say."

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