Six injured, four hospitalized after tent collapse at New Ipswich religious revival

  • A sign on the corner of Locke Road in New Ipswich points visitors to The Last Reformation's religious revival events. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 8/23/2020 6:50:13 PM

A tent collapse at The Last Reformation’s evangelical revival event in New Ipswich Sunday injured six people and hospitalized four with non-life-threatening injuries. 

A severe thunderstorm swept through New Ipswich around 3 p.m. Sunday, the pitch-black sky pierced by lightning strikes and accompanied by howling winds.

“[The storm] was horrendous,” New Ipswich Deputy Fire Chief Gary Somero said Sunday evening. “It was just unbelievable.”

The storm swept over the Locke Road property which hosted the ten-day Last Reformation evangelical revival event, which wrapped up Sunday. TLR’s evangelical leader Torben Sondergaard posted a video from the scene Sunday evening; in the video, Sondergaard said he and a small crew were cleaning up after the last day when a windstorm blew through and collapsed one of the tents. 

“I’ve never seen any wind like this,” Sondergaard said. “A wind just came and took everyone up.”

Deputy Chief Somero said that crews were called just after 3 p.m. with reports of up to 20 people injured in a tent collapse, triggering a mass casualty incident response with seven ambulances from all around the region deployed to the scene. When Somero arrived on scene, he found that all the occupants had “self-extricated” from the collapsed tent. Crews set up triage in a barn on the property and ultimately transported four people to local hospitals. Somero said one subject had what appeared to be a broken arm, but that was the worst of the injuries as far as he could surmise. 

“They were very lucky,” Somero said, “especially with the amount of lightning that was bouncing around over there.”

Two other people reported minor injuries but declined transport.

The tents on state representative Paul Somero’s Locke Road property were inspected, and passed, last week ahead of TLR’s event, which was under scrutiny since before the traveling band of North Carolinian evangelists and their Danish leader ever set foot in New Ipswich. Locals concerned about a possible COVID-19 super-spreader event lobbied local and state government for some oversight, which came in the form of a mask mandate. Despite the hullabaloo (and pending the possibility of a resulting localized COVID outbreak), it appeared as though the group’s time in New Hampshire would be marked by little distress, as locals reported no issues during the ten-day stay. Instead, their final day in town featured a freak weather event and ensuing calamity the likes of which Deputy Chief Somero had rarely seen.

“This was a first,” Somero said. “I expected them to be quietly packing up and ready to go – which I guess is what they were trying to do.”


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