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3 Passengers Suffer Minor Injuries When Carriage Horse Is Spooked In Midtown

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Three passengers suffered minor injuries Sunday when a Central Park carriage horse got spooked and took off out of the park.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, police said the horse suddenly took off without its driver. Screams were heard on cellphone video as the passengers jumped out of the crashed horse carriage.

It happened around midday on busy Central Park South.

Witnesses said a horse named Arthur was just inside Central Park when – spooked by a pedestrian opening an umbrella – it took off across Sixth Avenue without its carriage driver.

The horse rammed into two parked cars and sent the three carriage passengers to the hospital. The incident renewed an old debate.

"I think this really highlights that horse carriages do not belong in chaotic traffic," said Edita Birnkrant, executive director of the animal advocacy group NYCLASS. "This was a horrifying crash that happened. This horse spooked; ran completely out of control with no driver."

The industry has fenced off an outright carriage ban for years. NYCLASS is trying to get carriage horses banned from city streets – and is now urging the City Council to limit rides to inside Central Park – and also to update what they call antiquated laws.

"Horses shouldn't be stuffed into tiny stalls with no pasture to graze," Birnkrant said. "They shouldn't be working until the age of 26, which is an elderly person for a horse."

But carriage drivers said their horses are rotated, and when they are not working, they are in pasture.

"You have like a dog in a home," said horse-drawn carriage driver Ahmet Bilici. "And we love them, so we take care of them."

A carriage industry representative praised carriage drivers who took control of the situation so that no one was seriously hurt. They said horse-drawn carriages are the safest form of transportation in Midtown.

New Yorkers are divided on the issue.

"It's got to be so traumatic," said Theresa Montalvo of Manhattan. "When you think about the traffic, especially on this avenue the noise. I mean, these horses have to be completely rattled.:

"The owners and the drivers -- these are generations of people who do it," said Ingrid Fishman of Manhattan. "It's a livelihood for them."

Police said the three passengers' condition was stable late Sunday. A spokesman for the carriage industry said the driver jumped down to secure the horse after he was spooked and took of.

The horse has been examined and was not hurt.

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