'Gunfight' wounding was repeat incident

June 20, 2011 at 3:46 PM
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HILL CITY, S.D., June 20 (UPI) -- The wounding of tourists watching a Wild West gunfight re-enactment in South Dakota was similar to an incident in the same town a decade ago, officials said.

Three tourists were wounded, including John Ellis, an optometrist from Pennsylvania, who was hit in the arm Friday as he and his family watched a performance in Hill City by Wild Bunch Reinactors, a volunteer group putting on the show to raise money for charity, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

"Obviously, they were supposed to be shooting blanks. But they weren't," said Ellis, who was discharged from a hospital Saturday.

Ellis said he was unnerved to learn of a similar incident in the same community in 2001.

"I just can't imagine anyone would even have live ammo and blanks in the same room or building, so there could even be a chance they'd get mixed," Ellis said.

"It's concerning that there aren't better safety precautions but I'll wait to see what the sheriff says," he said.

Another victim, Carrol Knutson, of Birchwood, Minn., was released Sunday after spending two days in the hospital and a third victim, Jose Pruneda of Alliance, Neb., suffered a minor flesh wound, the Rapid City (S.D) Journal reported.

The Pennington County sheriff's office was investigating the apparently accidental shootings but refused to speculate on how normally blank cartridges could have caused the injuries at the re-enactment.

"They've been doing it for years," Brenda Nolting, president of the Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce, told the Journal.

"There won't be another shootout. In my mind, it's done for good. This just cannot happen."

In the 2001 incident, a man suffered a forehead wound during a similar re-enactment and doctors believed the injury was caused by a wad that flew out of a firearm instead of disintegrating, the Journal reported.

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