BEDFORD - A sleigh crash Sunday at an Omni Bedford Springs Resort Christmas ceremony left a carriage driver hospitalized after the passengers - actors dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus - leapt from the vehicle.
As a marching band and Christmas characters prepared for a holiday parade around 4:40 p.m., something frightened the horses pulling the wheeled sleigh that led the procession, resort General Manager S. Lee Bowden said.
"We're not 100 percent sure why, but the horses spooked," Bowden said. "Mr. and Mrs. Claus bailed out."
State police at Bedford later determined that the horses were spooked when a band began to play music.
Carriage driver Ernie Alwine fell under the sleigh and suffered cuts to his face, Bowden said. Bleeding heavily, Alwine was taken by helicopter to Conemaigh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown.
Alwine's injuries weren't life-threatening, Bowden said. A supervisor at Conemaugh said he was still in the emergency room three hours later, with no information available on his condition.
The actress portraying Mrs. Claus sprained her ankle in the crash.
Police said Alwine's juvenile daughter also sustained minor injuries in the incident.
Resort employees took control of the frightened horses, which were inspected by a veterinarian before being cleared as safe, Bedford Fire Chief Lee Reisling said.
The accident didn't stop the holiday celebration. With so many children and families in attendance, Bowden said resort staff decided to continue the tree-lighting with a change of cast and an added prayer for Alwine's health.
"We were having a really nice Christmas celebration" until the crash, Bowden said.
Bowden said the resort has employed Alwine before, including for weddings and celebrations that involve carriage rides. A website indicates he operates Misty Haven Carriage in Somerset County.
Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.