Double decker crash kills 15 horses in Illinois

15 Belgian draft horses killed in Route 41 rollover; Tempel Farms vet risks life to save horses; Driver Charged

Belgian horses are similar in size if not exact in appearance to the more popularly known Clydesdales. Both are draft horses, bred to pull loads rather than run, and grow to weigh more than 2,000 pounds. While Clydesdales often have patches of white and long hair, Belgians are usually all chestnut or red roan and have smaller manes.

Authorities are continuing their investigation into the crash at Route 41 and Wadsworth Road, where the semi collided with a pickup truck, to determine if any animal humane or safety issues were involved in transporting the horses.

“It took us five hours to get all the horses out of there,” said Sgt. Curt Gregory of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. “We had to cut off the top of the truck. It was brutal.”

Gregory added that Illinois State Police will likely join county investigators in determining if safety guidelines were violated in having 59 horses being transported in one trailer.

“These were yearlings, about 1,000 pounds apiece, and they were double-stacked inside,” Gregory said, adding that the semi was heading to the Minneapolis area from Indiana. “We’re going to work with some experts in the field (and) see if they were being legally transported or not.”

Lake County Mounted Posse equestrian club president David Skofstad, who was among the county horse enthusiasts called to the scene to assist in the rescue operation, said he came away with no doubt that the transport was illegal.

“Transporting horses in that kind of trailer is patently inhumane,” Skofstad said Sunday. “It’s the kind of thing you would put pigs in … It’s double-decked, and the decks are only about five feet tall, so the horses couldn’t even stand up in it.”

The accident occurred just before 7 p.m. when the northbound semi crossed the intersection at Wadsworth and was struck by a westbound Chevrolet Silverado. The semi was struck after swerving to make an evasive maneuver, and it eventually crossed the median and rolled onto its right side, causing a blockage that would close all four lanes of Route 41 north of Wadsworth.

Gregory said the driver of the Chevrolet, a 67-year-old Libertyville man, and one passenger were treated and released at Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan. The driver of the semi, 34-year-old James E. Anderson of North Dakota, was not injured.

Newport Township Fire Protection District crews responded to the scene along with more than 40 firefighters from Newport, Beach Park, Fox Lake, Gurnee, Pleasant Prairie, Round Lake, Winthrop Harbor and Zion participated in the removal of horses from the trailer.

Newport officials also activated an emergency-response plan that called in veterinarians from area stables, including Tempel Farms and Kelly’s on 41 Equestrian Center, to assist with injuries to the surviving horses.

Skofstad said he and Mounted Posse members were called within an hour of the accident.

“Our club was actually having a 50th-anniversary party when someone called. That was the end of the party,” he said. “People took off — some went to get horse trailers and some went directly to the scene.”

BY the time Skofstad arrived, he said “I counted nine horses down on the road being tended to.” He estimated that four horses died outright in the accident, while “many” had to be euthanized at the scene.

“I held them while they died,” Skofstad said. He added that Dr. Gary Koehler, lead veterinarian at Tempel Farms, literally risked his own life while moving around inside the wreckage to aid the injured animals.

“He was in that truck. He was in the belly of the beast, and he did not come out until the last horse was out,” Skofstad said. “He put himself in harm’s way in a horrendous situation, and I’m real proud of him.”

Scott Golladay, who helped rescuers extricate the animals, said he could hear the animals kicking and screaming inside the truck as it laid sideways across the highway.

“It was God awful,” said Golladay, owner of Scott Golladay Stables in Antioch. “I’ve been in the horse business for over 35 years and this was, by far, the most horrific thing I have ever seen.”

Mounted Posse members assisted in transporting surviving horses from the scene. Officials would only report that the survivors were stabled at an area farm overnight.

Source: By DAN MORAN, Oct. 29, 2007, Surburban Chicago News (AP also contributed to the story)

Related Reading: Read Vets for Equine Welfare Fact Sheet

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