Five students hurt when wagon full of powder puff players topples during OHS homecoming festivities
The high spirits of homecoming festivities at Ozaukee High School turned in an instant on Wednesday, Sept. 29, in an accident that sent five members of the junior powder puff football team to the hospital.
The incident began at about 7 p.m. as some 20 junior girls parade around the school parking lot and approached the football field aboard a hay wagon being towed by a pickup truck, when they were playfully ambushed by members of the senior powder puff team.
The class attack is part of the homecoming tradition, and involved seniors squirting water and ketchup, throwing flour and water balloons, and spraying Silly String at the wagon.
To avoid the barrage, the entire junior team shifted to the far side of the wagon, causing it to topple onto its side.
Several girls were trapped by the cage which had broken away from its wheel base.
Immediately, bystanders lifted the wagon to free the girls.
“My son and I were announcing the freshman and sophomore powder puff game from the press box at the football field when I got a call on my cell phone about what had happened,” said Principal Kevin Parker.
“I climbed over the fence and was on the scene in a matter of seconds. There was no panic, but emergency personnel had already arrived at the scene and were administering care.”
Parker said he recognized the parents of several of the injured girls at the scene, and made calls to those who weren’t present.
Five girls were transported to Columbia St. Mary’s Ozaukee Hospital for treatment of minor injuries. According to the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department, the injuries were reported to a left calf, left knee, left ankle, a hip and a facial cut.
“My understanding is there were no bones broken and four of the five girls were back in school on Thursday. The fifth was back Friday,” Parker said.
“It was one of the fun activities we include in homecoming, but it went bad. I think it is fair to say it was an accident that could have turned out much worse if students, emergency personnel and members of the community weren’t ready to jump in and help so quickly.”
Bystanders were quickly able to push the wagon upright shortly after it toppled.
The injured and shaken girls waited in a grassy area while being tended to by rescue personnel from the Northern Ozaukee Ambulance, as well as Saukville, Waubeka and Port Washington.
As the incident unfolded, school officials decided to cancel the juniors vs. seniors powder puff game, but held the tradition bonfire that evening.
“Once we were sure everyone was going to be alright, we felt it was important to continue with the homecoming activities as planned,” Parker said.
“The wagon incident was certainly the primary topic of conversation at the bonfire, it seemed like everyone was glad to just move on. There was no bad blood or finger pointing. I could tell
the seniors felt bad and everyone seemed genuinely concerned for the girls who were hurt.”
Parker said deputies with the Sheriff’s Department questioned the junior and senior teams separately, but no further action is expected.
Authorities did inspect the hay wagon, which was towed by junior Blake Schueller and owned by his uncle, Thomas Thill.
According to the sheriff’s report, as the trailer tipped over, it broke away from the frame to which it was attached by chains on the left front and rear right of the wagon.
Thill told investigators said chains are often used on opposite corners of a trailer to hold a wagon in place.
Damage could be found to the wooden frame of the trailer, but officials were unable to find the broken link on the chain.
“It had appeared that the right chain broke as the trailer tipped over onto its left side,” the sheriff’s report said. “It is possible that this link could be anywhere between the high school and the farm (on Highway D in the Town of Belgium.”
Parker said school officials will take time to study the incident closely, but doubted it will mean the end of the popular powder puff games.
“It was still pretty fresh last week and emotions were running pretty high. I have found that is not when you want to make policy decisions,” Parker said.
“We will be talking with class representatives and the Booster Club to get input on the entire homecoming. The goal is to keep the fun of homecoming while making sure we keep everyone as safe as we can.”
CLOCKWISE FROM UPPER LEFT photo, the members of the Ozaukee High School junior powder puff football team riding in a hay wagon were greeted by senior players lobbing water balloons, throwing flour and spraying Silly String. When the junior girls shifted to one side of the wagon to avoid the attack, it toppled. Bystanders quickly righted the wagon, freeing the trapped girls. Emergency personnel tended to five injured team members at the scene, and the girls were then transported to Columbia St. Mary’s Ozaukee Hospital for care of various leg and foot injuries. All of the injured students were back in school by Friday. Photos by Sam Arendt