Spooked carriage horse tosses tourists in NYC

(CBS News) NEW YORK - A horse-drawn carriage and a vehicle collided near Midtown Manhattan Thursday afternoon, sending two people to the hospital, CBS station WCBS-TV reports. All of it started after the animal got spooked by a car horn and took off.

The long-standing debate on banning the tourist attraction was rekindled by the incident.

The 6-year-old black and white gelding named Oreo had a few moments of freedom following the incident before officials were able to get to it and take it away on a flat-bed truck.

Two tourists were taken to St. Luke's Hospital in stable condition. Witnesses said the driver also injured his leg.

"All of a sudden it sounded like a car crash, and I turned around, and all I saw was a horse going wild with a carriage attached to it and two people were sitting on the carriage ... there was no driver, I didn't see a driver," one witness said.

The crash dumped the passengers to the ground while the driver tried unsuccessfully to control the horse.

"We were screaming because we thought the horse was going to get hit, but the carriage hit the [car] and left the carriage right there and he kept going," another witness said.

The horse was not injured, despite bolting from the scene while being pursued by bystanders.

"A horse just came down 9th Avenue, galloping down 9th Avenue," Joseph Guarino said.

Guarino, a host at the Whym restaurant, took pictures of the horse after it was corralled by a passerby and police.

"They finally tranquilized the horse. I think they gave it a very light tranquilizer because he kept trying to get back up, and then finally he just laid down on the ground," Guarino said.

One witness said one of the tourists fell before the horse took off with the carriage. The horse finally smashed the carriage against a limousine, according to the onlooker.

"I'm a huge animal lover, and I was more worried that the horse was going to get hit by a car or run over somebody. It was just trying to stop the horse for its own safety," Holly Schnack said.

Within a half-hour of the accident, police were able to get the horse into a police trailer. It was being observed Thursday night and will not be working for the next few days while veterinarians wait for blood work results.

The cause of the accident is under investigation.

Meanwhile, the incident quickly ignited what has become a heated debate in New York City about carriage horses.

Scott Levinson with New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets said legislation that would outlaw hansom cabs is "gaining momentum."

"With every month that goes by people realize that a horse is meant to be in pasture and not meant to be on city streets," Levinson said. "When a horse gets spooked, you just don't know what they're gonna do. It's really an industry whose time has come and gone."

"It's inhumane treatment to the animal, but it's also a huge danger to everybody else in the area," state Sen. Tony Avella said.

However, others disagreed.

"There's absolutely no reason to ban the carriages because of what happened today anymore than there's any reason to ban bicycles from Central Park because somebody got hit," said Christina Hansen of the New York Carriage Horse Association.