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Ohio fair to resume after blast kills 4

Dozens were injured, some critically, by flying metal and hot oil when the engine exploded
Dozens were injured, some critically, by flying metal and hot oil when the engine exploded  

MEDINA, Ohio (CNN) -- Officials at an Ohio county fair said they planned to reopen it on Monday, a day after four people were killed and at least 49 others were injured in an explosion of an antique steam engine.

During a Monday morning news conference, fair officials said the scene of the explosion would be treated as a crime scene until investigators could uncover the reasons behind the tragedy.

They said resuming the fair would not pose any safety risk to visitors and that much planning had gone into fair events.

"It was extremely chaotic, people all over, laying around," said Medina County Sheriff Neil Hassinger on Sunday. "It was a disaster scene."

The fair is a popular event 25 miles southwest of Cleveland, Ohio, that draws thousands.

Dead are longtime supporters of the fair, including a father and son, Cliff Kovacic, 48, and William Kovacic, 27. The other victims were Dennis Jungbluth, 58, and Alan Kimble, 46. At least 49 people were transported to hospitals in Medina, Akron, Lodi, Wadsworth and Cleveland. Medical choppers from as far away as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, took the most critically injured to burn centers.

The injuries range from minor burns to major burns and shrapnel injuries. Authorities said it would take several days or several weeks to determine what caused the blast.

Last year, another tragedy occurred at the fair. About 30 people who attended the fair or an attraction at the fairgrounds later in the year became ill with E. coli, an intestinal bacterium that causes cramps, diarrhea, and in some cases, kidney failure. No one died.

An antique tractor explodes, killing four and injuring dozens at county fair in Ohio. WJW's Patty Lee reports (July 29)

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This year's fair -- which officially opens Monday -- was only opened Sunday for horse races and exhibit setup. Many people at the fair Sunday were bringing livestock and equipment to the scene.

The blast occurred at about 6:45 p.m. Sunday, when an antique steam engine was pulling into its parking place. The engine was being driven onto the grounds -- not trucked in -- and was not a function of the fair at the time of the blast, fair officials said.

It was part of a display of old-style engines, a popular draw at the annual fair. The explosion was so powerful that shrapnel was found 390 feet from the scene.

"It was a sound you'll never forget," said Dave Bertram, fair board president, said of the explosion. "It would take you back to Vietnam."

Hassinger said that "as far as we know, there are no inspections" required on these kinds of machines.

Emergency workers take an injured man to get treatment
Emergency workers take an injured man to get treatment  

"These steam engines are probably at every fair in Ohio," Hassinger said.

"In fact, I believe there are even steam engine shows in Ohio ... It's a piece of equipment that's a part of the heritage of the original agricultural people in our area."

Bertram said it was "unusual" that the engine was driven onto the ground and not hauled. Only the operator or owner would know of any safety problems, Bertram said, since the engine is "something a collector puts together and refurbishes."

"It's really up to them," Bertram said.

Some officials have said steam buildup is being probed as a cause of the blast, but it is too soon to tell. Hassinger said the investigation will be thorough: "We'll leave nothing unturned."

James Bigam, the fair's director of security, said of the four killed that "they took great pride in bringing those engines to the fairground to display."

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