Make your home page

5-year-old Illinois girl dies after being struck by starting gate at county fair’s harness race

EFFINGHAM COUNTY, Ill. (WISH) — This is a tough one for me to write.

The incident happened in Illinois, in my hometown area and where much of my family resides. It is our local county fair.

Harper Finn was 5 years old.

She was hurt Sunday afternoon at the Effingham County Fair. While attending the race, Harper was struck by the folding arm of the starting gate attached to a car that failed to close when it extended into the grandstand, the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office said.

She was rushed to a local hospital and later airlifted to the St. Louis hospital.

On Wednesday evening, she passed away.

My heart is broken, along with so many others.

Some of our closest friends are cousins to this little girl’s mom. They are devastated. The entire community is left with so many questions. And right now, not enough answers.

The fair, which canceled races after the incident, said in a Facebook post that “processes and procedures will be reviewed once the investigation is complete.”

“We appreciate the public’s assistance and willingness to help in this investigation, and our deepest condolences go out to the Finn family and all of those involved,” Effingham County Sheriff Paul Kuhns said in a statement.

The Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association established a GoFundMe for the family. As of Friday morning, it had raised more than $75,000.

“Our hearts were shattered when a tragic accident happened to a beloved little girl, Harper,” the GoFundMe said. “Together, let’s rally around Harper and show her that she is surrounded by a caring and compassionate community.”

As a parent, I simply cannot imagine the heartbreak. It’s too heavy to think about.

My husband’s grandparents have box seats very close to where Harper was seated. Had my family been there, it very well could have been them.

Some news stories, friends, just hit home. This one? Too close.

My deepest condolences to little Harper’s family and a small-town community that’s wrapping its arms around them all.

May they find peace and comfort in a tragedy that took their little girl entirely too soon.