Lynda Perry's Letter:
Patrol Horse Killed and Rider Injured by 17 Year Old Driver in Clinton
Dear Lower CT River Valley Horsemen's Club members,
I can't thank you enough for your overwhelming support and kindness after the traumatic death of my horse Trapper Jake Mint. I am so lucky to have such wonderful friends and to have shared the last ten years with my exceptional Lippitt Morgan Horse. Trapper was a hero. He saved my life when I first met him by showing me that horses could be both safe and fun. And he saved my life at the expense of his own life on that tragic evening. I also believe he saved the 17 year old driver from injury by preventing him from driving off the road.
Trapper was a road safe, trail safe, child safe, dressage and patrol horse. He was one of the first horses on the CT Horse Council's Volunteer Horse Patrol. We received awards for exceptional service every year since the Horse Patrol's inception (2003). I am devastated by his loss.
After Trapper's death I became aware of how large a problem injury and death of people and animals along Connecticut roadways is, and that there are often no consequences to the drivers causing harm. A bill is being reintroduced in the state senate. I would like to share Trapper's tragic story with the hope that something like this will never happen again.
On Tuesday, July 26, Trapper and I were riding home along Olde Orchard Rd in Clinton, speed limit of 25 mph. We were on a straight and open section of the road walking next to the curb on the right side of the road. I heard a vehicle approaching at approximately 6:50 pm. I turned to my left to acknowledge the vehicle with my usual friendly wave. As I turned, I saw the speeding Dodge Durango approach and swerve toward me. I screamed "Oh my God, you're going to hit me!" as the vehicle struck both Trapper and me. My first thought was that the driver intentionally hit us. It was obvious to me that the driver was speeding and out of control. Trapper and I were thrust into a tree where I was impaled by a branch on my right side. My left leg was hit by the vehicle. Trapper's left front leg was amputated above the hoof at the fetlock joint by the vehicle. We both sustained multiple abrasions and contusions. I was bruised from head to toe.
Amazingly Trapper never went down and once he was able to steady himself, he allowed me to dismount. He stood quietly, occasionally shaking the leg with his hoof dangling by skin and blood pouring out. I was in shock and disbelief. I am a veterinarian and there was nothing I could do to help my horse.
The driver stopped quite a distance past the point of impact. The first officer on the scene was the driver's father whose major concern was how I was going to get this horse transported away from the scene of the accident rather than realizing that this was an injury that was going to cost Trapper his life and that it was unsafe to all involved to try to move him. Emergency personnel and another Clinton police officer arrived. Two off-duty state troopers were there. I requested (begged) to have Trapper shot immediately. They refused because it was a residential neighborhood.
It was up to me to try to find an equine veterinarian to euthanize my horse. I only had one equine veterinary hospital's number in my cell phone, which was damaged in the accident. All three of my colleagues were over an hour away. Finally I called my associate, a small animal veterinarian. By the time he arrived, Trapper was in shock. We were able to sedate Trapper and he fell to the ground. Since he had lost so much blood, we were unable to find a vein to administer the final injection of euthanasia solution. At this point, we again asked the police to shoot Trapper. Unfortunately, the police are not trained for these types of emergencies and the officer had to shoot Trapper four times before he died, approximately 1 1/2 hours after the accident. It was horrific. The driver was very fortunate as he was sent home before my horse was shot and thus did not have to witness the terrifying and tragic end of his actions. My husband took me to the emergency room hours later after we buried Trapper.
The driver's statement says he could not see me and was "blinded by the setting sun". I was wearing a fluorescent lime green shirt and had a blaze orange poncho over Trapper's rump. The sun did not set until 8:20 that evening. What if I was walking next to Trapper, riding my bike, or walking my dog? This driver would have killed me.
The driver's statement says he stopped because he thought he hit a mailbox or garbage can, thereby acknowledging that he thought he was driving off the road and out of control. The driver lives in this neighborhood; there are no mailboxes on this road.. How could he mistake a 1000 pound animal for a garbage can or mailbox? Was the driver texting or using his cell phone?
The only consequence to the driver who struck another human being, as well as killed a horse by driving out of control was a verbal warning. Is this the message that we want to give to other drivers: That hitting someone while driving is just an accident and please don't do it again?
My husband and I met with Chief Lawrie of the Clinton Police Department and Major Santry of the Connecticut Highway Patrol last week to discuss the incident and my concerns. They will not investigate whether texting or cell phone use contributed to the accident because I did not see the driver doing either of them. They do not consider my injuries serious because I was not taken away by ambulance (I was more concerned about my mortally wounded horse than about my own injuries). They stated that 70% of all traffic violations in Clinton are given warnings. It seems to me that those that cause injury to a person should have more consequences. I asked them what they planned to do about preventing something like this in the future, specifically speeding and distracted driving. Their response was that there wasn't much more that they would be able to do as they already had one less patrol officer due to budget cuts.
This is why I ask you to support the protection of all users of Connecticut's roads, legislation which will "An Act Concerning Creating Penalties For Causing Harm to, or the Death of, a Vulnerable User of a Public Way".
Representative Debra Lee Hovey has contacted me and promises to work to assure this never happens again. Many of you have asked if I need help in any way. I plan to send this letter to out as a letter to the editor. PLEASE write more letters concerning this problem, distracted drivers and speeding. PLEASE contact you state representatives and ask them to support this bill in the upcoming legislative session. I will be called to testify at a public hearing concerning this early next year and will need your support.
Sincerely and your friend,
Lynda E. Perry, DVM