Nurse: Moment of fate brought her to girl injured at Indiana State Fair

Natalie Prater
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INDIANAPOLIS - Among the injured in Saturday's devastating stage accident at the Indiana State Fair is a three-year-old girl. Maggie Mullin was featured in Monday morning's Indianapolis Star.

Dr. Rob Klinestiver is a critical care doctor and Natalie Prater is a pediatric nurse. Both of them were attending the Sugarland concert when a gust of wind took down the scaffolding on top of hundreds of people.

"It's something that you really can't put into words. The noises and people screaming and within a moment, you look back and parts are flying and the whole stage completely collapsed," said Prater, describing the moments of the accident. She still has some scrapes from Saturday.

Dr. Klinestiver was in the front row.

"First row - the best seats in the house turned out to be the worst seats," he said. "When the wind hit, it was blinding, with the sand in our faces. You heard the tarp blow. I looked up and saw it starting to rock. I grabbed my daughter and said, 'Run as fast as you can' and pushed her in front of me. Looking over my shoulder I just saw this coming down at us. It landed two feet behind me. We got that close."

Prater calls it a moment of fate that brought her to the injured girl.

"She was on her mom's lap at the moment that I found her and she was bleeding pretty bad. I could tell she had a pretty severe arm injury. I thought that possibly her artery had been severed," said Prater.

"A mother's scream that your daughter needs help and people were there," said Maggie's mother, Laura Madgziarz.

She fashioned a tourniquet out of a scarf to staunch the bleeding.

"At that point the mom was just asking me to get her out of there and take care of her, so I picked her up as quickly as I could and tried to find an exit to hand her off. I believe it was a paramedic or EMT who said, 'Let me have her.' At that point I handed her off," said Prater.

At that point, Dr. Klinestiver took over.

"We helped free a woman pinned by the girders first, and I climbed into the you know there was a maze of piping above and below you had to crawl through. I came upon a man whose name is David Wood who didn't have any training at all. I was holding the girl at that point. We think that the paramedic had to hand the girl off to this other gentleman just because of the narrow spaces. He had her and he's saying, 'help' and I said, 'I'm a doctor' and he handed her to me. We started working through the maze," he said.

Klinestiver said he had to hand the girl off again to a paramedic, and by this point the tourniquet had loosened.

"Once we got her out in the clearing we got another tourniquet on and I handed her off to somebody to take care of her," he said. "You expect a child in that circumstance to be crying and scared, but she was very quiet, her eyes were very large. I was afraid she was in shock."

Maggie is recovering in the hospital after surgery from a broken arm and a leg injury. Another surgery is scheduled for Wednesday.

"If it wasn't for them, I don't know if my daughter would have made it here," Madgziarz said.

Her mother and grandmother were also injured. Prater says Maggie's mother was suffering from a bad leg fracture.

"Her other daughter was there with her and didn't appear to have a scratch on her," said Prater. "But she was very scared. She mentioned that her mother and her other daughter were somewhere but they didn't know where they were. I just kept reassuring her that to my best ability I will take care of your little girl."

"I went to go grab her and that's when I realized I had a problem because I fell," Madgziarz said.

So she relied on seven or eight people, total strangers, who whisked her daughter to safety.

"I truly believe this was God at work," Dr. Klinestiver said. "I'm starting to realize that I had a role in that and that makes me feel good that I was able to do something."

The doctor said it was extremely difficult to get to the victims because of the fallen rigging.

"Some girders were maybe three feet high, some were ground level. You had to keep going up and down and crawl through narrow spaces," he said.

Prater said she did her best to climb over fallen equipment to get to victims. She thinks that's how she got most of her scrapes and bruises. She talked about pure adrenaline and instinct taking over.

"I just rushed right in and did what I could," she said.

As a pediatric nurse and a critical care doctor, Prater and Klinestiver typically treat patients in more controlled situations. This was something entirely different.

"I have a whole new respect for the emergency medical services of our city," said Klinestiver. "What they go through, the front lines. When they come to the hospital, they're already controlled. We had a patient who needed to be intubed. We had nothing, no equipment, to help this person. You feel completely helpless. Just the chaos. That was the hardest thing for me - knowing what needed to be done and not being able to do it."

"You work with what you have," said Prater. "My husband at one point took off his shirt just so we could hold pressure. I took the little girl's - I don't know if it was her shirt or a scarf or something, did what I could to make a tourniquet. You just worked with what you had and instinct took over."

Gov. Mitch Daniels said that the willingness of so many people to jump in and help exemplifies Hoosier values. Prater thanked everyone who helped, saying, "There wasn't a coward in the whole place."

Madgziarz and Maggie's grandmother have been treated and released at local hospitals. Because of the quick work of two strangers, Maggie has the same chance.

"I think we gave her the best chance that we could and I think she's going to be fine and she's going to grow up and be a wonderful young lady," Prater said.

"There's not enough words to express my gratitude. I mean, those people went above and beyond and they just happened to be in the right place at the right time," Madgziarz said.