By Stan Maddux
INDIANAPOLIS – Cowboys on horseback assisted in the removal of 54 cows from an overturned bi-level semi-trailer along Interstate 65 in downtown Indianapolis.
Initially, the Indianapolis Fire Department (IFD) reported six of the 54 cows in the July 20 accident perished. Dan McClean, operations manager for Hix Wrecker Service, said another eight cows later died as a result of their injuries.
The 40 surviving cows were taken to a safe haven farm for food, water, evaluation, de-stressing and rehabilitation.
It was almost a once-in-a-lifetime experience for McClean, who was involved in extricating cows from an overturned trailer on just one prior occasion in Florida during his 34-years in the towing industry. “It’s not anything you can really train for or be prepared for,” he said.
According to IFD, the 27-year-old driver traveling from a farm in Kentucky to Iowa was treated at Methodist Hospital for minor injuries. His passenger, a 7-year old Australian cattle dog, also escaped serious injury.
The northbound semi overturned where travelers can merge to head westbound on I-70.
McClean, coordinator of the extrication, said fans were brought in to cool down the cattle on a humid 90-degree evening and to keep them from becoming more restless while a large hole was cut in the fiberglass roof of the trailer laying on its right side. “It was starting to get really hot in there and all of the cattle appeared to be pretty stressed,” he said.
Cattle gates were brought in to create a pen area to contain the cows as each head was brought out of the opening in the roof. McClean said the cowboys were just showing up when one of the cows knocked over a gate and fled into a residential neighborhood.
A few minutes later, he said police had to put down the cow because of the potential danger posed by the animal he described as uncontrollable.
Five cowboys, after saddling up, helped keep the remainder of the cows in order before they were led up a loading stock ramp into four trailers for hauling away.
A veterinarian was called to the scene to evaluate the condition of each of the animals during the rescue, which took about four-hours to complete. Another two hours were spent cleaning up the site, worked by about 80 emergency responders and other individuals.
McClean said cows on both levels of the trailer complicated what was already a major challenge. “It was not an easy task by no means,” he said.