Sunday, February 3, 2008

Bill would change laws for parades

Bill would change laws for parades

By Chris Dornin
Golden Dome News
CONCORD -- A Portsmouth lawmaker has filed a bill to ban flatbed
trailers with outrigger wheels from parades after the recent death of
a Greenland Cub Scout. Nine-year-old Thomas Fogarty was riding on a
Portsmouth Holiday Parade float with his Scout pack around 6:15 p.m.
Dec. 2 on Islington Street when he somehow fell in front of a double-
axle wheel. Authorities don't know what caused the tragedy, but they
have ruled it an accident.

Representative Paul McEachern, D-Portsmouth, is prime sponsor of HB
296, a one-line bill that says, "No person may use any type of
flatbed trailer with outrigger wheels in a parade." McEachern said
the wheels on Fogarty's float stuck out from the side of the trailer.

"The police said the boy was sitting forward of the outrigger wheels
and either fell in front of them or got his leg caught in the wheel
and was pulled under," the Portsmouth rep said. "Many trailers have
the wheels underneath. Those wouldn't be outlawed."

Senator Maggie Hassan, D-Exeter, has filed a companion bill that
might merge with McEachern's. She hasn't seen the final draft, but
her legislation would require a parade permit for any float that
carries minors. The float would either have a 3-foot railing to keep
kids from falling off, or the adults would tether or seat belt the
kids onto the platform. If these options were impractical, the
sponsors of the float could set up radio communication between the
adult on the flatbed and the driver so the truck could stop at the
first sign of danger.

"They've got to be able to hit the brakes right now," Hassan said.
"The intent isn't to dictate what to do in every case, but to get
them thinking about the situation they're placing kids in. Hopefully,
the adult would see a dangerous problem in time to intervene."

Rep. Jim Splaine, D-Portsmouth, is a co-sponsor on both bills, and
other Seacoast lawmakers may be signing on.

McEachern said a second serious accident in the same holiday parade
could have become a fatality. A man walking beside a flatbed float
was using a rope to tow the bell of a restored antique fire pump. The
heavy trailer wheels ran over his toes.

"He's had all kinds of complications," MacEachern said "He was either
walking too slow, or the parade started back up when he wasn't
expecting. People have to realize how dangerous these trailers are,
despite their slow speed. They're just not designed for parades,
which are stop and go by definition."

Walter Lebor, the owner of Great Northern Excavating in Exeter, said
he's never seen the trailer addressed in McEachern's bill. He assumed
it applies to specialty trailers for hauling extra-heavy equipment.

"The standard low-bed around town doesn't have them," Lebor said.
"Some have metal brackets to give it an extra foot of width, but the
wheels are way inside the outrigger. I can't think of any trailer it
would apply to."

McEachern said he has in mind wheels that jut outside the outline of
the trailer as viewed from above.

Portsmouth Police Lt. Rodney McQuate headed the accident
investigation and confirmed that no charges would be filed.

The boy's parents could not be reached by phone, but they have set up
a memorial fund for their late son to support school enrichment
programs. Donors may send gifts to the Thomas Edward Fogarty Memorial
Fund, c/o Greenland Central School, 70 Post Road, Greenland, NH 03840.

Brian and Deborah Fogarty issued a statement a few days after their
loss, thanking the community for its overwhelming support and
praising the rescue workers.

"We ask that you please keep everyone involved in this tragic
accident in your thoughts and prayers," the parents said, describing
Thomas as a beautiful, bright, energetic, and life-loving boy.

"Although this is a tragic and sad time in our lives, we believe that
something positive will come out of this," they added. "Last, we ask
that you give your children an extra hug tonight and value the time
that you have together.

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