Several tourists in Stanley Park got a very bumpy ride after a pair of horses pulling their carriage was spooked during an anti-pipeline protest Monday afternoon.
The accident happened as protesters were marching in the park just ahead of an appearance by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to announce the federal government’s spill response plan.
According to witnesses, the two horses and carriage were stopped due to protesters on the Stanley Park road and then were startled by a driver sounding their horn. The sudden noise sent the pair over the curb, pulling a carriage full of passengers along the seawall, crashing into park benches before eventually stopping.
“The driver was really good, she slowed the horses down and they stood… then a car came along and the protesters were in front and she or he peeped their horn —; right beside us, and of course the horses spooked,” said one passenger.
Vicki Warner, who was visiting the park from Chelan, Washington had gotten on the carriage a few minutes before the accident. Warner and her friends were thrown from the carriage when the horses jumped the curb.
But they’re praising the abilities of the carriage’s driver.
“It’s not the horses fault. [The driver] did a brilliant job, as much as she could. And once the horses hit the bench, [the driver] got thrown out,” said one tourist on board the carriage.
The owner of the horse-drawn carriage attraction, Jerry O’Neil, was visibly shaken by the incident and told Global News this was the first time something like this has happened in 37 years of business.
O’Neil said they train the horses and drivers on a regular basis for scenarios they may come in contact within Stanley Park.
“We have music in the barns, so the horses are exposed to different music sounds, different noises before we bring them in the city,” O’Neil explained.
“At the farm in the Fraser Valley, we have flags, balloons, there are kinds of different things. But animals remain animals and sometimes people come in the cars [and] rush to it. So today was a bit unusual unfortunately, [I was] really surprised at the outcome [but] I’m really happy nobody got hurt and the horses are not hurt.”
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O’Neil said the carriage’s driver has been with the company for years and while there’s a first time for everything, this should be a reminder to people to slow down when they see the horses.
Australian tourist Karen Arnold suffered minor injuries, sprained ankles and some abrasions, after she, her husband Greg and two kids decided to jump from the carriage.
“We were a bit concerned [the horses] were going to go into the water,” Greg said.
“They knocked over one of the poles and then took out one of the park benches. One of the pieces of timber came up into my face, missed my face luckily, that’s when we decided to make a jump for it.”
Both the Vancouver police and fire department were on the scene to look over the tourists shaken up by the accident.
The cost of the damage to Stanley Park structures is currently unknown. O’Neil said it’s too early to tell, but estimates the damage to the horse carriage at a few thousand dollars.
O’Neil said the horses, which were anxious after the accident, will be taken back to the barn and assessed.