Lawrence paradegoer ran up to float before tripping, being run over, police say

The woman who was struck and run over by an entry in the Lawrence St. Patrick’s Day Parade was an onlooker who ran up to the float, police said.

The woman reportedly crossed a chalk line, drawn to keep people safely away from the vehicles, that parade organizers say their volunteers do their best to enforce.

The accident happened at about 2 p.m. Sunday, temporarily stalling the annual parade as it made its way down Massachusetts Street.

Near 10th Street, the woman ran into the street from the west side of Massachusetts to collect items that a parade participant was passing out to the public, Sgt. Amy Rhoads of the Lawrence Police Department said in email responses to questions from the Journal-World. The woman tripped and was run over by the trailer of the float, Rhoads said.

The woman’s injuries were not believed to be life-threatening, Rhoads said. Rhoads said the woman was taken to a regional hospital, but did not provide details on the type of injuries she suffered.

The Journal-World messaged people who said on Facebook that they were relatives of the woman, but did not receive responses Monday.

After the woman was hit, the float stopped and a group of onlookers ran up and lifted the trailer off of her, witness Erika Kirkland, of Lawrence, said.

“I heard everyone gasp,” Kirkland said. “… and then a big crowd rushed up and lifted up that side of the trailer.”

Kirkland said she could not see how the person got hit. However, she said that, shortly before it happened, she saw people on the float handing out beads from the trailer and onlookers running up to get them, mostly children, which alarmed her.

Kirkland attended the parade with her own children, ages 7 and 9. She said she’d seen many children and some adults crossing the line to get candy being passed out or thrown by people walking alongside earlier floats.

“Over and over again, these kids were running out into the street past the designated chalk line,” she said. “There should be no reason that kids should be enticed into the road.”

Parade rules prohibit throwing candy or other items from floats or by parade participants, but walkers may pass them out to onlookers, according to float registration forms.

Onlookers are supposed to stay behind the chalk line. That’s enforced by parade volunteers, though, not police.

“We have dozens of volunteers wearing jackets who walk up and down the line and remind people to stay on the other side,” said Kay Traver, parade committee secretary and board member. “… of course, we only have three people on each side per block, so things can’t always be controlled. We tell the children not to cross this line, and we ask the parents to set an example.”

Traver said there has been a lot of “hearsay” on social media, but that she did not have details on the woman’s injuries or exactly what happened, either. She said the committee did wish the woman a speedy recovery.

Traver, who has been on the parade board 26 years, said she wasn’t aware of any similar accident in the event’s 30-plus-year history in Lawrence.

Traver said the committee didn’t plan an independent investigation, but rather would leave the accident investigation up to police. She said the committee would review those findings to see if any parade procedures need to be changed but that, at least at this point, it did not appear so.

“We have done everything that we are supposed to do,” Traver said.

Traver noted that parade speeds are very slow — walking pace — and that the committee didn’t have any reason to suspect the driver of the float was under the influence or inattentive.

“They’re not expecting anyone to run out in the street and fall under the wheels of their trailer,” she said.

The police department’s accident investigation was not complete Monday, Rhoads said.

Rhoads confirmed that, similar to other large events, Lawrence police do not enforce the chalk line at the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Rather, officers on scene enforce traffic offenses and city ordinance or law violations, and respond to emergency situations.

Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd


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