Gene and Beverly Miner of Standish at the Fryeburg Fair. Gene Miner, who says he was injured while watching the harness races in 2022, is suing the fair. Submitted photo

PORTLAND — A Standish man who claims he was injured during a harness racing event at the Fryeburg Fair last year is suing the fair’s owners.

Gene Miner, 82, had been standing at the rail of the racetrack at the opening of the race on Oct. 5, 2022, when he was struck in the head, arm and hand by a gate attached to the back of the pace car that leads the horses along the track, according to a complaint filed last month in Cumberland County Superior Court.

He had been in the grandstands with his wife, Beverly, viewing one of the races, but left his seat to use the restroom, the complaint said.

As he was returning to his seat, another race was about to start, so he joined other spectators, known as “railbirds,” who were lined up along the outer fencing.

The so-called “gate vehicle” starts the race as the horses line up behind it until the proper pace is achieved before it speeds ahead and off the track.

“As the driver of the gate vehicle approached where Gene and the other “railbirds” were standing, he allowed the gate vehicle to drift wide, toward the right side of the track, thus allowing the outermost portion of the starting gate to extend beyond the rail, as a result of which the gate struck Gene,” the complaint said.


“The gate hit Gene Miner’s left arm, hand and head, causing him serious and permanent injuries and emotional distress, which event and injuries caused Beverly the loss of Gene’s comfort, society, and companionship,” according to the complaint.

Gene and Beverly Miner claim the Fryeburg Fair was negligent because it was responsible for the event when and where Gene Miner was injured.

“Defendant Fryeburg Fair is aware that spectators enjoy watching races from the rails and do so regularly, and provides such “railbirds” access to the rails to do so,” according to the complaint.

Through the Miner’s attorney, Daniel Kagan, the Sun Journal recently interviewed the couple about the injuries Gene Miner said he sustained at the event last year that led to the lawsuit.

He said it’s now hard for him to perform the simplest routine house chores.

What he had been able to do himself before, he now must hire someone, he said.


It’s difficult just to get out of bed due to the injury to his arm and hand, he said.

Beverly Miner said her husband had been able to take care of plumbing and carpentry repairs in addition to everyday chores around his home and also help out his neighbors.

She and her husband had been attending the Fryeburg Fair since 1959, she said.

“It’s very sad, you know, that this has gone on for so long,” she said.

“The fairground never contacted us to see how we were doing,” she said. “It’s very, very disappointing.”

Gene Miner continues to get physical therapy to address the lingering effects from his injuries, she said.


“He’ll never be the same, according to the doctor,” she said. “And it’s sad to see him, you know, emotionally, have to deal with this.”

Immediately after the collision, Gene Miner was unconscious for about five minutes, his wife said.

“Gene is lightheaded, he’s not able to articulate like he always did. He was a smart man. He was meat manager at Shaw’s Supermarket for 35 years,” she said.

Now, she handles all of the paperwork at home and does all of the driving, she said.

“So, it’s created quite a change in our lives.”

David Hastings, president of West Oxford Agricultural Society, a nonprofit organization that operates the annual Fryeburg Fair, an eight-day event, said the group’s insurance company was made aware of the Miners’ complaint.


“There was an incident, there’s no question about it. But, the incident, in our opinion, was caused by our starting car,” Hastings said.

“We believe that if there’s any liability, it will be with, ultimately, with a company called Silver Streak Starters, LLC, which we contract with to operate the starting car at our races,” he said Wednesday.

“We believe that if there is any liability, that rests with our starting car company and not with the fair itself, but time will tell,” he said.

This is the first time an incident involving the starting car has reportedly injured a spectator, he said.

“Safety is very important to us,” he said, “and we’ve spent a great deal of energy and money trying to keep the fair as safe as possible for our crowds. Unfortunately, occasionally, accidents happen. That’s why we buy insurance and this matter will be dealt with in the normal course of events.”

Kagan, the attorney, said that fairs in Maine “are a legacy tradition, enjoyed through generations. And like in many main attractions, while we all love them, we rely on those who organize them to present them in a safe manner. It’s unfortunate when that safety gets lax and someone gets hurt. And while we’re filing this lawsuit, we are hopeful that the folks involved in this case will work with us to come to an appropriate resolution so that everyone can move along and learn lessons of safety for the future.”

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