When Scott Golladay heard a truck carrying 59 horses rolled over Saturday night, he knew the scene would be horrendous.
But nothing could prepare Golladay for what he saw once he arrived to help. The huge, horse-filled truck was lying sideways across Route 41, and he could hear the animals kicking and screaming.
"It was God awful," said Golladay, owner of Scott Golladay Stables in Antioch. "I've been in the horse business for over 35 years and this was, by far, the most horrific thing I have ever seen."
Nine Belgian draft horses were killed when the double-decker semitrailer truck they were riding in collided with a pickup truck on Route 41 near Wadsworth.
Route 41 was closed from about 7 p.m. Saturday to 1 a.m. Sunday as emergency personnel and local equestrians and veterinarians assisted.
An unknown number of horses were euthanized at the scene. The rest were taken to a Wadsworth farm early Sunday morning.
The owner of the farm asked the location not be made public. She also wouldn't confirm the number of horses still alive, but it is believed to be about 44.
The driver of the semitrailer truck, James Anderson, 34, was issued traffic citations and flew home Sunday to his native McLeod, N.D.
"We couldn't hold him for traffic citations, and couldn't charge him with anything else because we haven't verified what violations, if any, were committed," Lake County Sheriff's police Sgt. Curt Gregory said.
Attempts to reach Anderson Sunday were unsuccessful.
Anderson was reportedly headed to the Minneapolis area from an auction in Indiana when the accident occurred. According to police, Anderson was driving north on Route 41 when he ran a red light and struck a pickup truck before losing control of his semi and flipping it, blocking both lanes of traffic.
The driver of the pickup truck, Larry Hanlin, 67, of Libertyville, was treated and released for minor injuries, Gregory said.
As of Sunday evening, no one could confirm why the horses were being transported, or say who owned the animals.
Rescue efforts for the horses were difficult because the crash left the doors leading to the horses inaccessible, Gregory said.
Lori Stevens, a Bristol, Wis., equestrian who assisted at the scene, said the biggest concern was that once the trailer was opened, the 800-pound horses would run out into the street. But very few of the horses were able to walk on their own.
"The majority were dragged on their sides, on boards," Stevens said. "Some were down for up to three hours, with other horses on top of them. You could hear them in the trailer, kicking and hitting the walls."
Stevens visited the horses Sunday morning and said they appeared to be recovering.
What astonished Golladay was the number of horses in the trailer.
"When I haul semis, 15 horses is a full load," he said. "I was in disbelief they packed 59 in there. To me, that suggests they were headed for slaughter."
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, released a statement Sunday responding to the accident and thanking the rescue workers and volunteers.
"We mourn the loss of these magnificent creatures," Pacelle said. "The gory details of this accident serve as a reminder of the grisly nature of shipping large numbers of horses hundreds of miles to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico. "
How long the horses will remain at their temporary farm home, and how and where they will go next, is still unknown.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture will be called today to determine what to do with the surviving horses, Gregory said.
If it turns out that the horses are loaded back onto a truck, brought to auction and eventually slaughtered, Stevens said she'd rather euthanize them.
"My biggest concern is a trailer will show up tomorrow with proof of ownership and take them away," she said. "These horses have been through so much already."