WOLFORD, N.D. -- When Landon Halvorson first saw the pickup that was approaching the wagon he and his family was riding Saturday afternoon, it was about a mile behind the hayride.
The family had just pulled out of their farmstead with a wagon pulled by two Clydesdales.
“We had Clydesdales as a hobby,” he said. “We used to tour with them. We were going to take them out for a ride.”
The part of North Dakota Highway 17 they were driving east on, about 1½ miles west of Wolford, is flat, but there is a gradual hill west of the family’s turnoff.
His father, 61-year-old Lyman Halvorson, pulled the wagon to the shoulder of the highway to let the pickup pass, but as the pickup drove east down a gradual hill, it didn’t appear to slow down, Landon Halvorson, 29, said.
“I kept an eye on it,” he told the Herald. “It wasn’t slowing down. It wasn’t turning on its blinker and it got closer and closer.”
When he realized the pickup was going to hit the wagon, he jumped. His 25-year-old wife, Sierra, jumped after him.
Seconds later, the pickup driven by 75-year-old Lyle Lima of Wolford slammed into the back of the wagon, sending the other passengers flying off the hayride.
“It’s beyond something I would have ever imagined,” Landon Halvorson said. “It feels like it’s not real.”
The wagon was destroyed, said Lt. Troy Hischer, northeast regional commander for the North Dakota Highway Patrol. The Clydesdales were both killed in the crash.
Landon and Sierra Halvorson escaped injury, but the other wagon passengers, included their 4-year-old daughter, Amiyah, needed immediate medical assistance.
Amiyah was airlifted to Minot’s Trinity Hospital. She now is in Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis with severe injuries, including two broken legs and bruised lungs. Her vitals are stable, but she will need surgery to reset her legs, Landon Halvorson said. She also is being monitored for brain swelling and bleeding.
Sierra Halvorson’s parents, Bradley and Margaret Cichos, both of Rugby, N.D., also were thrown from the wagon. Margaret Cichos, 51, was first taken to Towner County Hospital in Cando, N.D., before being flown to Altru Hospital in Grand Forks. She now is being treated for multiple injuries in a Minneapolis hospital, though she appears to be recovering.
Bradley Cichos, 53, died at the scene.
Lyman Halvorson, who was taken to Rolla (N.D.) Hospital before being airlifted to Trinity Hospital, is responsive but his vitals are unstable, according to a GoFundMe post set up to cover expenses for the family.
Still, he has made small improvements.
“He’s talking,” Landon Halvorson said. “He took his own breathing tube out himself (Monday) morning.”
Lyman Halvorson’s 18-year-old daughter, Kenzie, was taken to the Rugby Hospital, but she was released Saturday with a fractured foot, several cuts and a broken nose.
Lima, who the Herald could not reach for comment, was uninjured.
Highway 17 has a speed limit of 65 mph, but Lima told state troopers he wasn’t speeding, Hischer said. The gradual slope of the hill was not a factor in the crash, and there is nothing to indicate there were any visual obstructions, he added.
Lima was not on his phone and alcohol was not involved in the crash, but it’s likely he may have been looking out into a nearby field, which would have distracted him from seeing the wagon, Hischer said.
“We will be doing some more work on the truck just to confirm what he told us,” he said. “We don’t believe he was doing anything out of the ordinary other than he didn’t see the hayride.”
The crash still is under investigation, but based on the witness statements, it is likely no charges will be filed in the case, Hischer said.
“It’s just a tragic accident,” he said.
Wagons are allowed on the roadway in North Dakota, and the state does not have a minimal speed, but drivers should beware of their surroundings, including vehicles that are traveling slowly.
“We are a farming community and (drivers) need to be watching for slower-moving vehicles at all times,” Hischer said. “It’s not necessarily just about hayrides. It’s everything that can be on the road legally.”
“Slow vehicles are all over this time of year,” he added. “You close on a slow-moving vehicle so fast.”
The Halvorsons are holding up “as good as they can” for the situation they are in, Landon Halvorson said. Though there seems to be some uncertainty with how the injuries will affect Amiyah, it seems like everyone who survived the accident will recover from their injuries, he said. However, the road to recovery will be long, he added.
Several GoFundMe sites were set up Monday for the victims of the crash. By Tuesday afternoon, the Amiyah Jo page, which can be found at www.gofundme.com/272xrb8, raised $2,550. The Cichos Family Medical Fund, which will cover medical expenses for Margaret Cichos and funeral expenses for Brad Cichos, had raised $4,460 and can be found at www.gofundme.com/272mpjmg. The Halvorson Family Medical Fund at www.gofundme.com/27fug77f had raised $9,135.