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Published: Saturday, 3/12/2005

Death of Ohio man, 25, deemed tragic accident


VAN WERT, Ohio - When Justin Terbrueggen was thrown from the bull he was riding in a rodeo school, two sheriff's deputies happened to be at Hat Creek Arena and a medical helicopter landed within 30 minutes.

But Mr. Terbrueggen, a 25-year-old U.S. Navy veteran from Cincinnati who had driven to Van Wert County to ride a bull for the first time, was pronounced dead at the arena about 75 miles southwest of Toledo on Sunday morning.

"It was just a tragic accident," said Lyle Sankey, director of Sankey Rodeo Schools, who was leading the lessons at Hat Creek, northwest of Van Wert, for about 50 students.

When Mr. Terbrueggen was thrown from the bull, he landed underneath it and the bull stepped on him, Mr. Sankey said. Mr. Terbrueggen suffered massive head injuries, according to the Van Wert County sheriff's report.

While waiting for the helicopter, emergency workers performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation and tried two automated external defibrillator machines in an attempt to shock Mr. Terbrueggen, who was bleeding heavily from the face.

But six minutes after the helicopter landed, medical workers asked for the coroner.

On Thursday hundreds of people attended Mr. Terbrueggen's funeral, said Carol Ritter, vice president of administration at Ohmart-Vega Corp., a scientific instruments firm in Cincinnati where Mr. Terbrueggen was a field service technician.

He had been employed there for about two years.

It was while on a service trip to Wyoming for Ohmart-Vega that Mr. Terbrueggen, a bachelor who loved the outdoors, saw a rodeo and decided he wanted to ride a bull.

Last week he took vacation days to attend the Sankey Rodeo School. "It was something he had dreamed about doing," Ms. Ritter said.

The bull that threw Mr. Terbrueggen and stepped on him had been used all week at the ranch and will continue to be used, Mr. Sankey said.

"It was just a novice bull and a novice bull rider," Mr. Sankey said.

Seven competitors have been killed since 1994 in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association-sanctioned events, according to the association.

The association did not have figures, however, on deaths in rodeo schools or other events that it does not sanction, a spokesman said.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:


or 419-337-7780.

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