Woman injured by bull questions handling of incident
Doris Henke did not care to watch the Harford Fair rodeo Friday night, she was more interested in the bumper cars.
But, as she watched one of her grandchildren do her best impression of a queen's wave as her siblings crashed into her car, the rodeo came to the 71-year-old paraplegic.
"I was sitting there waving to them and I turned and this bull - this big bull - is coming real fast and a clown on a horse is chasing him," Mrs. Henke said.
The next thing she knew the bull - which state police said got loose from its handlers as they tried to load it into a trailer - bounded over her.
She remembered the feeling of its flesh brushing over her head just before one of its hind hooves pelted her in the forehead, knocking her over in her motorized wheelchair.
"I felt his foot go right on my head," she said.
Her husband of 49 years, Raymond Henke, had been leaning on the back of her chair when the bull collided with his wife, bringing him down as well.
Mr. Henke was not harmed, though, and quickly scrambled to his wife's aid pressing a handkerchief to the wound over her right eye.
In an interview with The Times-Tribune on Tuesday at their Kingsley home, the Henkes recalled the chaos that consumed what had been a pleasant family outing as the bull turned to make a second pass in their direction.
"He's coming back!" someone shouted, Mr. Henke recalled, and their son, Troy, leapt from the bumper car arena's platform to help his father pull Mrs. Henke and her destroyed wheelchair out of the bull's path.
"Everybody was hollering 'Where's a cop? Somebody should shoot him,' " Mr. Henke said.
Before the bull came back in their direction for a third time, Mrs. Henke's son had pulled his bumper car in front of her to further block the animal.
Cindy Reynolds, second vice-president of the Harford Fair Board of Directors, said emergency responders managed to corral the bull into a booth at the fair and block it in until a handler drove the trailer over to stow the animal.
Another 13 people at the fair were either injured by the bull directly or in their attempts to get away from it, state police said. They did not release names or details on the extent of injuries.
The three other bulls that got loose while handlers tried to load them onto the trailer were contained before breaking free into the fairgrounds, state police said.
"I thought there was going to be at least three or four people killed," Mr. Henke said. "They weren't prepared. How are they going to stop this thing with a clown on a horse? ... It was bedlam."
There did not appear to be any handlers armed with equipment to tranquilize the bull, Mr. Henke said, as the rodeo clown and an all-terrain vehicle chased the animal through the fair.
"They should have shot him with a tranquilizer gun and they didn't do it," Mr. Henke said. "That's reckless endangerment of the public."
Ms. Reynolds was not certain if the company that ran the rodeo, K-F RoughStock and Rodeo Co. of Harpursville, N.Y., had tranquilizing equipment on-hand but also said that it is possible that using such equipment could have been dangerous because of the number of people in the area.
Efforts to reach the company were not successful Tuesday.
Confined to a wheelchair since a car crash left her paralyzed at 16 years old, Mrs. Henke has titanium rods holding her spine together.
When emergency medical responders went to treat her, Mr. Henke said he demanded they let him pull his wife out of her chair to transfer her onto a backboard for fear that the "dead weight" of her legs could cause injury to her back.
Soon after, Mrs. Henke was taken to an ambulance on an all-terrain vehicle where medical personnel treated her head wound, stabilizing her condition, and waited for a helicopter to fly her to Geisinger Community Medical Center - which Mr. Henke said did not arrive until 90 minutes after the incident.
Mrs. Henke was spared from injuries more severe than a wound requiring 12 stitches over her right eye, bruising around both eyes and significant bruising up and down her right leg, which was pinned beneath the weight of her 140-pound chair.
"There is a blessing to this - God is good," said Mrs. Henke, a devout Baptist. "The blessing is the X-ray showed I didn't break any bones, I didn't fracture any bones, and there's no blood on the brain."
Still, in the days since Friday night's incident at the fair, she has noticed a numb sensation in her forehead and an aching in her chest. She worries whether the bruising to her legs will lead to further medical issues in the future.
Frustrated, Mr. Henke said he is "disappointed that the Harford Fair organization has so little regard for personal care or personal injury."
"Is that too much to ask for? I don't think so," he said.
Mr. Henke said he and his wife heard nothing from fair organizers until Monday - when he called their office.
"All they said was 'We did the best we could,' " Mr. Henke said.
"Well lady, that wasn't enough," Mr. Henke said he responded.
"I'm just thankful to God," his wife added.
Ms. Reynolds said the reason the fair did not contact the Henkes or any of the other victims of Friday night's incident was that they had no way of finding out who the victims were because of medical confidentiality laws.
Ms. Reynolds said that the fair's board of directors have discussed the idea of assisting the victims of Friday night's incident but have not come to a decision.
Though Mrs. Henke's injuries were relatively minor - a "blessing" that is not lost on the Lenox Twp. resident - she worries about the possibility of complications or latent injuries caused by the trauma.
A retired couple, the Henkes rely on Social Security and fear the expense medical bills that such injuries could incur.
"I don't think it's over," Mr. Henke said. "We're looking down the road."
Mr. Henke said he and his wife have not decided whether to consult an attorney as a result of the incident.
Luckily, Mrs. Henke already had a second motorized wheelchair, which Mr. Henke said the couple purchased for about $5,000. The damaged chair was purchased through Medicare, he said.
Despite the chaos of that night and the frustration since, there have been moments that have left the faithful couple feeling humbled and thankful to God - like the little girl that was standing beside Mrs. Henke's chair when the bull jumped over it.
Sitting in the kitchen of their secluded, single-level home, the Henkes recalled how the girl's father, whose name they didn't get in the chaos, told them he believed his daughter's life may have been saved by the chair blocking her from the bull.
"There's been some fantastic people," Mrs. Henke said.
At one point Tuesday, Mr. Henke picked up the ringing phone and walked out of kitchen.
After a brief conversation, Mr. Henke hung up and returned to his place beside his wife at the table.
"More people praying for us, dear," he said.
"That's good," she said.
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