Thursday, April 6, 2017


It started out as a medical aid request and ended up as a large animal rescue call-out. Except for the plane crash last month, it also ended up being one of the biggest media stories for our agency in the past year. Apparently, animal interest stories "have more legs" than human interest stories.

It started with a paramedic squad being dispatched for a medical aid request on a major street in town. When they arrived, they found no injured humans, but a horse trapped in a subsurface utility vault containing the pipes that supplied a nearby apartment complex. The vault was located at least partially in the sidewalk and was covered by some sort of boilerplate metal panels. The panels or supporting structure failed under the weight of the horse and it's rider. The rider was not injured in the mishap, but the horse ended up stuck in the vault. He was not happy about it.

The engine company that shares the station with the squad arrived and requested the Horse - Animal Rescue Team (H.A.R.T.)  The HART team is stationed at our USAR station and is staffed by USAR team members with additional, specialized, training. It was at about this time when I decided to respond and take some photos.

 Though not deep, the large piping in the vault kept the horse from gaining foothold. As time passed, he became more agitated. The HART guys decided that the best course of action would be to use a small crane or boom-truck as a high anchor point, then hoist and pivot the horse away from the vault. Once the plan was developed, the appropriate requests were made. There was a 45 minute eta on the crane and about a 30 minute eta on a veterinarian. The vet is needed to sedate the horse, which prevents further injury to it and reduces risk of injury to the rescuers.

The vet arrived and assessed the horse, the crane was on it's way. The horse appeared to be in significant distress. Every time it began to thrash, it's torso and limbs impacted the piping and other sharp metal objects in the vault. Honestly, it was awful to watch.

While waiting for the crane, the HART guys were able to remove the boilerplate covers from the vault and place straps around the horse. The vet returned to her truck to get medication and a helmet.

About this time, the horse decided that it had had enough. Somehow, it was able to gain enough footing to get close to getting out. The added pulling from guys on the straps and the rider on the halter provided enough energy to get the horse out of the vault.

The vet examined the horse and said that it appeared to be in pretty good shape, other than some lacerations that would need suturing.

I was amazed, I was thinking that things were not going to end well - I wasn't the only one to have that opinion BTW.  I am glad that I was wrong in my assessment, everybody left the scene pretty good about the way things ended up.

The PIO that night said his phone was ringing all night from the media wanting info. I received calls/messages from Fox News and the Associated Press wanting permission to use my photos.

You just never know what stories "have legs".

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

  1. I was raised on a horse farm, and am somewhat familiar with horses in distress. It usually doesn't end well.

    My congratulations to everyone involved for doing an outstanding job. Thanks for publishing the story.