Illinois Trailer Accident: Two More Horses Dead

The number of horses surviving the semitrailer truck rollover in Wadsworth, Ill., fell to 42 on Monday when two more horses were euthanatized due to their injuries, according to Vickie Wancho, spokesperson for Carney Farm in Wadsworth, where the horses have been residing since the Oct. 27 incident.

"Two were euthanized because of leg fractures," Wancho said. "But the remaining 42 are improving every day."

The surviving horses--which included Belgian draft horses, Haflinger pony crosses, and Percherons, ranging in age from weanlings to 5 years old--still suffer from bumps and bruises. But in general they are in good health despite their ordeal, according to Wancho.

"They're pretty banged up," Wancho said. "When they first got here they slept a lot and lay down a lot, but now they're on their feet, they're eating and drinking well, and the babies are beginning to play a little bit."

They're getting plenty of attention, too. Investigators from the Illinois and U.S. Departments of Agriculture visited Carney Farm on Monday and Tuesday to access the herd and to garner what information they could about the horses' previous and current circumstances.

"They examined each horse and cataloged each one according to sex, age, breed, and condition," Wancho said.

The herd was also assessed on Tuesday by representatives of Great West Insurance Co., who, according to Wancho, have taken possession the horses. How long the horses will remain at Carney Farm is uncertain.

"The insurance company is paying us for their care and for cleaning up the facility after they leave," she said. "And so far, it seems they want to keep the horses together as a herd."

Mike Stack, an adjuster for Great West who inspected the horses, declined to comment on the case.

In the meantime, some light has been shed on the horses' previous owner. According to Sgt. Chris Thompson, public information officer for the Lake County Sheriff's Department, at the time of the accident, the horses were owned by an unnamed Minnesota breeder, and were en route from a horse sale in Indiana to another sale in Minnesota.

"It's our understanding that the horses were eventually meant to go to the Amish to be used as draft horses," Thompson said.

That fits with the caretakers' assessment of the herd. All the surviving horses were in good flesh, had cropped tails, and well-groomed feet, said Wancho. According to John Hanover, DVM, who was one of the attending veterinarians at the accident scene, the animals' behavior in the immediate aftermath of the accident attested to their previous care and handling.

"It's obvious that these horses had been handled a lot, even as young as they were," Hanover said. "Even though they were shaken, they were well-behaved. They even walked right into the trailers we had to take them from the scene. I'm not sure I'd be willing to do that after what they'd been through."

Once the accident investigation is complete, Thompson said Illinois prosecutors will determine if charges will be brought against the horses' Minnesota-based owner.

"It was, afterall, an accident--not something deliberate," Thompson said. "But by the end of the week we should know what charges, if any, will be filed."

The 42 surviving horses were among 59 being transported in a double-decker semitrailer when its driver failed to obey a stoplight on U.S. route 41 in Wadsworth. Nine of the 59 horses were pronounced dead at the scene and another six were euthanatized shortly thereafter as a result of their injuries.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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