SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A carriage tour took a turn for one group of tourists in Savannah on Friday.
Around 11:30 a.m., officials say a startled horse caused the carriage to tip over in a downtown square, pinning seven people underneath it.
“All of a sudden, I heard a loud scream. Then I looked and I saw a horse bolting,” said David Major who witnessed the crash.
John Tarr, owner of Historic Savannah Carriage Tours, said the incident started about a block from the square near the intersection of Broughton and Habersham streets.
Tarr said a crew was trimming trees and a limb dropped, startling the horse. The horse apparently began to trot through a stop sign, but the driver says she was maintaining control.
According to Tarr, that’s when a car pulled out in front of the horse.
“Someone thought he was out of control and tried to pull in front of him to stop him, which is never a good idea with a horse,” said Tarr. “Got him even more worked up and he hit the curb.”
The carriage then tipped over as it entered Warren Square.
“When he got to the corner of Habersham and St. Julian, it turned over and so myself and some other guys had to pick the carriage up off the injured,” said Major, who was painting a house when the chaos began.
“People panicking from everywhere, people coming from everywhere trying to help out,” he said.
Major added that several people appeared to be bleeding, and then medical crews were called.
Contrary to initial reports, Tarr said only five of the seven people on board were sent to the hospital. Two were able to walk away from the scene.
The carriage driver and four passengers are said to have non-life-threatening injuries.
“We’re very concerned about our driver, we’re very concerned about the patrons that were on the carriage,” Tarr said, adding the passengers were from out of town.
At this time, there has been no update on the extent of the injuries of the five people taken to the hospital.
According to Savannah Fire, the horse was able to stand up and walk a few blocks after the accident.
“The mounted police have already been to our business and checked him out and he is fine,” said Tarr.
Friday evening, PETA issued a statement on the accident, urging the city to end the practice of horse-drawn carriages:
Horses are high-strung and so don’t belong on busy streets, where construction noise and sirens can easily panic them. This wasn’t the first time that a horse-drawn carriage accident in Savannah has sent people to the hospital, and it won’t be the last unless the city joins others that have ended the practice of forcing horses to toil for tourism.
Local animal activist group Speaking Loudly & Often For Animals released the following note on the crash:
Horse Drawn Carriages put everyone at risk on busy city streets. The variety of incident possibilities are being presented to City Manager, Mayor & Aldermen for their further considerations of our local regulations. If traffic is proven as a means that horses may become spooked, then it seems this industry is questionable.
There was a similar incident with Historic Savannah Carriage Tours some years back, but the horse was brought under control and no one was hurt.
Meanwhile, Tarr told News 3 his business would be closed for the rest of the day.
Warren Square was shut down for about two hours before reopening as authorities worked to find out more about what happened and why.