Officials determine death of third horse at Calgary Stampede was 'result of driver error'
Chuckwagon driver Chad Harden has been disqualified from the Calgary Stampede and fined $10,000 after Stampede officials determined he caused a crash on the track that resulted in the death of a horse belonging to another driver on Thursday evening.
Calgary Stampede officials confirm that a third horse died following a collision in Heat 7 of the Rangeland Derby.
"Last night was very different, due to interference and contact with another wagon, a horse sustained severe injuries. This was a result of driver error and has been determined as a fatality that could be avoided,” said Kristina Barnes from the Calgary Stampede.
The crash resulted in the death of a horse belonging to Evan Salmond’s team and three other horses owned by Salmond sustained minor injuries in the incident.
An Independent Chuckwagon safety commission reviewed the crash involving Harden, who now faces a $10,000 fine and a ban from competing at future Stampede Chuckwagon events.
"An independent chuckwagon safety commission reviewed the incident and determined the ruling. The other three horses on Salmond’s wagon sustained minor injuries. I also want to say to the fans that were there last night that I know it wasn’t easy to see what you saw. I’ve been seeing it in the faces of our high performing athletes, of our committed staff and our dedicated volunteers. Please know we do everything possible to minimize the risk at all of our events.” said Warren Connell, CEO Calgary Stampede.
The Stampede has determined that Harden’s wagon interfered with another driver in the backstretch just out of the first turn, which then caused a third wagon to collide with the inner wagon on the track.
"Following last night’s races the safety commission conducted a review of Heat number 7. A review consisted of video tape, of viewing video tape of the races of the race, we also interviewed Stampede judges and the drivers directly involved in the incident," said Mike Whittle, Chairman, Chuckwagon Safety Commission. "At this point there is no further appeal, our decision has been rendered and he provided us his thoughts last night, I won’t get into those thoughts, but I will say that we did inform Chad after our meeting and he is processing what we have told him."
"After conducting our review the safety commission has determined that Chad Harden's actions were responsible for impeding another driver, Danny Ringuette, causing his wagon to collide with Evan Salmond's wagon outfit on the inside rail of the race track in our ruling," said Whittle. "Last night the incident that occurred was a result of driver error and that’s what we’ve determined and that’s why we’re moving forward as we have.”
Ringuette’s team was able to finish the race and no chuckwagon drivers were injured in the crash.
The Calgary Stampede says it has 'a zero tolerance policy for preventable accidents and injuries and the care of the animals that participate in our events is our highest priority.'
"We strive to create the best and safest conditions possible for the horses and drivers who race our track. We also understand there are some injuries that are beyond our control. The fatalities from race night three and five were unpredictable equine injuries. Both horses received thorough veterinary inspections upon arrival here at Stampede Park and each night prior to racing," said Barnes.
Prior to Thursday night’s action, two other horses had already died during the 2019 Rangeland Derby. On Wednesday night, one of Obrey Motowylo’s horses was euthanized after suffering a fractured left front radius and a 14-year-old gelding belonging to Troy Dorchester died Monday night after collapsing.
"With the death of the two horses on the previous nights of racing, this has been a difficult time for us and the greater chuckwagon community," said Connell.
Veteran chuckwagon driver Kurt Bensmiller doesn't believe Harden's actions were malicious. "I think what happened last night is unfortunate," siad Bensmiller. "There was no intent at all, it was a misjudgment, and I bet there won't be anything like that for a long time."
The Calgary Humane Society opposes the events at the Stampede, but doesn’t have the legal grounds to lay charges
‘We do not have any grounds to lay charges under Alberta Animal protection act. I completely understand people's frustration with that and when they see an animal welfare organization like ours they say you could be doing something. Believe me if we could, we would have at this point,” said Phil Fulton with the humane society.
Stampede officials say both Salmond and Ringuette were given average times for the heat.