NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A horse-drawn carriage and a vehicle collided at Columbus Circle on Thursday afternoon, sending two people to the hospital. All of it started after the animal got spooked by a car horn and took off.
The long-standing debate on banning the tourist attraction was rekindled by the incident.
It all happened at 59th Street and 7th Avenue. The horse had a few moments of freedom following the incident before officials were able to get to it and take it away on a flat-bed truck, CBS 2’s John Slattery reported.
The 6-year-old black and white Gelding named “Oreo” went on a wild ride after getting frightened around Columbus Circle and Central Park South. The resulting episode left the carriage overturned and shattered.
Two tourists were taken to St. Luke’s Hospital in stable condition. Witnesses said the driver also injured his leg.
“All of a sudden it sounded like a car crash and I turned around and all I saw was a horse going wild with a carriage attached to it and two people were sitting on the carriage…there was no driver, I didn’t see a driver,” one witness told CBS 2’s Slattery.
1010 WINS’ Eileen Lehpamer Reports
The crash dumped the passengers to the ground, while the driver tried unsuccessfully to control the horse.
“We were screaming because we thought the horse was going to get hit, but the carriage hit the [car] and left the carriage right there and he kept going,” one witness told WCBS 880’s Monica Miller.
WCBS 880’s Monica Miller With More On The Story
The horse was not injured, despite bolting from Columbus Circle across 60th Street and down 9th Avenue to 58th Street while being pursued by bystanders.
“A horse just came down 9th Avenue, galloping down 9th Avenue,” witness Joseph Guarino told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis.
Guarino, a host at the Whym restaurant on 9th and 57th, took pictures of the horse after it was corralled by a passerby and police.
“They finally tranquilized the horse. I think they gave it a very light tranquilizer, because he kept trying to get back up, and then finally he just laid down on the ground,” Guarino said.
A witness told 1010 WINS’ Eileen Lehpamer one of the tourists fell before the horse took off down 60th Street with the carriage. The horse finally smashed the carriage against a limousine, according to the onlooker.
“I’m a huge animal lover and I was more worried that the horse was going to get hit by a car or run over somebody. It was just trying to stop the horse for its own safety,” Holly Schnack said.
Within a half hour of the accident, police were able to get the horse into a police trailer. It was being observed Thursday night and will not be working for the next few days while veterinarians wait for blood work results.
The cause of the accident is under investigation.
Meanwhile, the incident quickly ignited what has become a heated debate in New York City about carriage horses.
Scott Levinson with New Yorkers for Clean, Livable & Safe Streets said legislation that would outlaw hansom cabs is “gaining momentum.”
“With every month that goes by people realize that a horse is meant to be in pasture and not meant to be on city streets,” Levinson told 1010 WINS’ Lehpamer. “When a horse gets spooked, you just don’t know what they’re gonna do. It’s really an industry whose time has come and gone.”
“It’s inhumane treatment to the animal, but it’s also a huge danger to everybody else in the area,” State Sen. Tony Avella added.
However, others disagreed.
“There’s absolutely no reason to ban the carriages because of what happened today anymore than there’s any reason to ban bicycles from Central Park because somebody got hit,” said Christina Hansen of the New York Carriage Horse Association.
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