Would Float Railing Have Prevented N.H. Parade Tragedy?

December 6, 2006

A bill rejected by the state Legislature four years ago would have required a safety railing on parade floats — a measure that might have prevented the death of a 9-year-old boy in Portsmouth’s holiday parade.

Some witnesses said Thomas Fogarty of Greenland was sitting with his legs dangling over the side of his Cub Scout troop’s float when it hit a bump and he fell in the path of the wheels. Others said he was walking beside the float when he fell. He was run over and later died of his injuries at Portsmouth Regional Hospital.

The 2002 bill would have required floats to be equipped with a railing at least 3 feet high and solid enough to prevent a small child from squeezing through. It was rejected by the state Senate.

The bill’s sponsor, former Senate President Beverly Hollingworth, D-Hampton, said it was impossible to know whether such a law would have prevented Saturday night’s accident.

“I can’t say this would have never happened. I can’t even go there,” said Hollingworth, who was recently elected to the Executive Council.

“I just want to say I am heartsick for the family, the people driving the float, the chaperones and everyone involved,” she told Foster’s Daily Democrat. “It must be one of the most traumatic experiences for them. Everybody can second-guess, but that’s not what we should be doing right now.”

Hollingworth said many people felt at the time the bill was not needed.

“The reason legislation failed, I believe, is because everyone felt they were doing everything necessary. My feeling for sponsoring the bill was that without a lot of expense we could make sure the kids were contained within the floats,” she said.

Hollingworth said she sponsored the bill after years of watching her children and grandchildren take part in parades.

“I always preferred to have my kids marching or walking,” she said. “In a parade, there is just so much going on, adults can’t watch every single one of the kids.”

The state’s mandatory vehicle restraint law for children doesn’t apply to school buses, antique cars or parade floats traveling less than 10 mph.

The Portsmouth death came a day after a 3-year-old girl was seriously injured after falling from a parade float in Freeport, Maine.

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Information from: Foster’s Daily Democrat,
http://www.fosters.com

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