Several children and adults suffered minor injuries while getting a major scare in a mishap Saturday at a Davenport cemetery.
Members of Military Explorers Post 9044 were placing American flags at Davenport Memorial Park for the Memorial Day weekend when the flatbed trailer on which they were riding broke loose from the truck that was pulling it. The trailer careened several hundred feet downhill before striking a tree and coming to a stop.
The trailer came loose from the truck as it took a curve, said Hank Runge, the cemetery's general manager, calling it a "fluke" and "unfortunate."
Some of the 10 children and adults on board jumped from the trailer as it sped downhill while others remained with the flatbed until it hit the tree, preventing it from entering a roadway. The cemetery was much busier than usual because of the holiday weekend, and vehicles were both traveling and parking on the roadway.
"A few of them jumped off, and a few of them rode it down," said Davenport police Sgt. Eric Court, who responded to the scene along with the Davenport Fire Department and several ambulances. "All is well; thank goodness."
The Explorers have assisted setting out flags for several years and their work is appreciated, Runge said.
"We hope this doesn't deter them from doing this in the future," Runge said.
The truck and trailer are owned by Davenport Memorial Park, Maj. Scott Harper of Post 9044 said.
Harper said he jumped off the trailer and injured his arm when he used it to protect his head in the fall.
"We had unloaded flags and we were heading for the maintenance shed to get more flags," he said. "We're very thankful nobody got seriously hurt. They just barely missed hitting trees."
The vehicle plowed over several graveside vases and took out some flowers and at least one flag.
Explorer Sam Vroman, 15, said he did not jump.
"I rode the whole way down," he said. "We all slid forward a couple of feet when we hit the tree at the bottom. We could have hit cars if we'd kept going."
Retired Explorers Command Sgt. Major Paul Herrera was riding in the pickup.
"If this were a combat zone, you'd be qualified for a Purple Heart," he told a 13-year-old boy after the teen was treated by paramedics at the scene for scrapes and bruises. "You do qualify for an ice cream cone."
Adult Gayle Green also stayed on the trailer.
"I was screaming all the way down, watching trees flash past me," she said. "It was like a spring sled ride. Since we're all OK, I can say that."
The relief was apparent in both the children and adults, and Harper remarked, "It's already been a Memorial weekend to remember."