Swim Meet Continues in Winfield as Healing Begins After Tree Collapse Accident

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

The scene of a mangled tent and tree limbs, along with his concern for those injured, kept Ben Henwood up Friday night.

"I was laying in bed last night (Friday) until 1:30 a.m. just wide-awake, trying to download, trying to break it down like, 'What happened?'" said Henwood, leader of the Derby Dolphins Swim Club.

Hours after a large tree collapsed on people at a swim meet in Winfield, injuring three parents from his club, Henwood was back at the pool.

Each swimmer's stroke was the best therapy for him and others after the freak accident.

"It was really neat seeing them here and back in the water having a good time," Henwood said.

Especially uplifting was seeing two of the high school boys whose moms were injured compete at the meet.

"They did really well. One of them got first place and got a gold medal," Henwood said.

It was that kind of moment he and other organizers say was evidence they made the right decision.

"Today it felt like a real family, like we needed to come together to heal," Meet Coordinator Lisa Buffum said.

Buffum says the healing process began Saturday morning with a special moment of silence and the singing of the National Anthem.

"There were some tears and emotions, but it was a beautiful moment," Buffum said.

She says club presidents and coaches met Friday night. After discussion, they decided to disband for the evening but finish the meet Saturday.

Buffum says local leaders pitched in to help ease concerns.

"The City of Winfield came in last night (Friday) and trimmed some of the trees and they looked for anything that could be hazardous," Buffum said.

Also, people attending the event set up camp differently Saturday.

"Parents have made the decision to line up more on the fence line, away from the trees," Buffum said.

While a little more cautious, almost everyone was back in the same place, helping each other just as Henwood says they did a day before.

"You don't know why things happen but it was pretty amazing how everyone did come together," Henwood said.

Henwood and meet coordinators say three women remained hospitalized Saturday. All were at Wichita hospitals.

Henwood says one woman suffered two broken ankles and four damaged vertebrae. He says doctors say the vertebrae will heal naturally without surgery. She will most likely be in a wheel chair for six weeks. A second woman suffered a broken neck. A third woman had fractured vertebrae and had surgery Saturday.

Meet coordinators say they've been told all three women are in stable condition.

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