Agriculture Officials Join Illinois Trailer Accident Investigation

State and national agriculture officials are joining Lake County, Ill., authorities to investigate a tractor trailer rollover accident that left 13 Belgian horses dead. A total of 59 horses in the double-decker trailer--most of them yearlings and 2-year-olds-- were in transit from Indiana through Illinois en route to Minnesota on Oct. 27 when the incident occurred. The 44 survivors are in the care of an unnamed local horse farm operator.

"First and foremost we're investigating to confirm that horses that survived the rollover are in good condition," said Illinois State Veterinarian Mark Ernst, DVM. "We also want to make sure there weren't any violations in the safety or treatment of the horses."

Because the incident involved transporting horses across state lines, the USDA will conduct its own investigation, Ernst said.

According to Sgt. Chris Thompson, spokesman for the Lake County Illinois Sheriff's Office, the semitrailer was traveling on U.S. Route 41 when driver James E. Anderson of McLeod, N.D., ran a red light and collided with a pickup truck. The impact caused the Saturday night rollover.

"Emergency responders pronounced nine horses dead at the scene," Thompson said. "Another six were euthanized at the scene."

Dozens of local volunteers assisted firefighters in extracting the horses from the overturned trailer, while local veterinarians treated surviving horses.

Trailer accident

Volunteers help an injured horse to its feet.  

"The emergency crews had to use saws to cut through the trailer in order to get the horses out," said Scott Golladay, owner of Scott Golladay Stables in nearby Antioch, Ill. "I've never seen anything like it."

While Lake County authorities have not disclosed who owns the horses or why they were in transit, Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States said the horses had been purchased at a horse sale in Indiana and were on their way to another sale in Minnesota.

"We have no indication at this time that they were on their way to slaughter," Dane said.

As a part of the continuing investigations, Illinois State Police officers are examining the truck to determine if a mechanical failure played a part in the incident, Thompson said.

Meanwhile, the truck's driver has been charged with disobeying a traffic control device and failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident. The violations carry penalties of $150 in fines.

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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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