A “FREAK accident” at the weekend’s Malton Roman Festival left four people injured and in need of hospital treatment.
The incident was caused by a startled horse which escaped its enclosure and careered towards a crowd of festival goers while they watched events in the main ring on Saturday afternoon.
In the ensuing panic, people suffered injuries as they tried to back away from the horse, with one woman sent tumbling to the floor when fencing tape, dragging behind the horse, wrapped around her legs.
Paramedics and first aiders were on the scene within moments, quickly followed by an air ambulance and three ambulance crews.
Four people had to be taken to York Hospital as a result, all suffering minor injuries.
Hours later, the air ambulance was called out again to airlift a Roman re-enactor who suffered a heart attack.
Both incidents marred the otherwise successful festival which attracted hundreds of people to Orchard Fields on Saturday and Sunday.
“It was an utterly freak accident,” said Jeremy Powell, a festival organiser. “The response was superb. We had paramedics on site within seconds dealing with all those affected.”
A man who was feeding biscuits to horses in the enclosure, which was protected by two fences, is believed to have caused the incident, said Claire Chamberlain, a re-enactor with Romanorum and owner of the horses.
“We told him to stop but before he walked away he threw the rest of the pack into the enclosure and the horses jostled to try to get to them,” she said.
“It was like throwing a winning lottery ticket into a room with four people.
“One horse was pushed into the fence as the others were rushing towards the biscuits and he got tangled up in the fencing.
“He came up to the audience, stopped, turned and went back to the enclosure but as he did he still had the tape around his leg.
“Unfortunately, there was a poor woman and as he came towards her, she was tripped up and really hurt herself. He did everything he could to avoid hitting anyone, he was just trying to shake this tape off his leg.”
The horse, by then calm, was returned to the enclosure.
It is the first such incident experienced by Mrs Chamberlain in 26 years of showing horses at re-enactment shows up and down the country.
She said: “These horses go all over the country without a problem. They are used to being put in enclosures, crowds of people and they were supervised at the time. It was very unfortunate this happened and now we are concerned about all the people that were either knocked over through the audience jostling to get back or had the tape catch them as he went past.”
The Malton Roman Festival, now in its second year, is held on Orchard Fields, home of the Derventio Roman Fort. The two-day festival included Roman soldiers marching in full military uniform, living history demonstrations such as gladiatorial combats, cooking and a mock battle between Romans and Britons, among other attractions.