Carriage horse makes mad dash

People try to push a carriage back up after a horse that slipped its bridle and raced down South Battery caused it to tip over while turning onto Meeting Street. At least six of the 13 people aboard were injured.

Animal slips bridle; 6 of 13 passengers injured

A carriage horse that slipped its bridle raced down South Battery on Wednesday afternoon, and at least six of the 13 people aboard were injured when the carriage tipped over while turning onto Meeting Street.

"One elderly lady has a shoulder problem. I don't know if it's a broken clavicle or what, but they are X-raying it," said David Compton, owner of Old South Carriage Co. "Hopefully, that's the worst of it."

Six people were taken to local hospitals, a Charleston Police Department report stated. By late Wednesday, all had been treated and released, Compton said.

Carriage driver Jodie Shearer told police that the horse's bridle came loose and fell off, according to the report. She told police the left side of the runaway carriage hit a curb while turning onto Meeting Street, sending the carriage several feet into the air.

The carriage landed on its right rear wheel, which shattered, and then overturned, throwing the tourists to the street and landing on at least one of them, the police report said.

Compton said the accident is the sort of thing that happens "once in a blue moon."

Police filed no charges related to the carriage wreck, which happened at 1:45 p.m.

"I got the call from one of my drivers who was down that way and he just said 'Send help,' " said Bunny Westendorff of Palmetto Carriage Co., another Charleston tour operator.

"I just hate it, because it's just not good publicity," Westendorff said. "I cannot remember the last time this happened, maybe 20 years."

Three tourists were injured in 2001 when two horse-drawn carriages collided, tossing three riders onto Church Street. Police said the horses were spooked at a noisy hotel construction site.

In 2000, a mule spooked by a bicycle broke her bit and pulled a carriage into the back of a truck, but the animal and seven people aboard were not injured. In 2000, two passengers were injured in a two-carriage collision on Guignard Street, which tore the bench from one carriage.

In 1996, four tourists were injured when a horse was startled by the noise from hedge trimmers and raced down Rutledge Avenue, running red lights and eventually jumping a curb.

Tommy Doyle, president of Carriage Operators of North America and general manager of Palmetto Carriage Co., described Wednesday's crash as a freak incident. He said the animals used by Old South "are very well trained."

"Charleston does the largest volume carriage operation in the country and to have something like this happen so rarely, really speaks to the safety of the industry," he said.

Several people who saw Wednesday's accident didn't know what prompted the horse's behavior.

"The horse just kicked up and took off," said Renee Gerken, a Hanahan resident who was walking through White Point Garden at the time with her nine children.

"I think the driver might have tried to turn him onto Meeting Street and the cart tipped over," she said. "The back right wheel bent and all the passengers fell out of the cart."

Jamera Jones, of Charleston, also was in White Point Garden and gave a similar account.

"The horse was running full speed, and then turned the corner and the carriage tipped over," she said. "There were some people on the ground, and laying on the sidewalk."

Jones said two ambulances were quickly on the scene. By 3 p.m. there was nothing at the corner of Meeting Street and South Battery to suggest that anything had happened, save for the presence of a local television crew.

"They cleaned it up real fast," Jones said.