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Stagecoach Crash Kills Horse, Hurts Riders at Knott's

A worker and two guests are hospitalized after the accident, which is blamed on brakes. The park reopens the ride after inspections.

August 21, 2003|Ashley Powers | Times Staff Writer

The Butterfield Stagecoach ride at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park reopened Wednesday after an accident this week killed a horse and left several passengers with minor injuries.

The replica Old West stagecoach whose brake problems led to the accident is not in use, said Knott's spokeswoman Susan Tierney. Five other stagecoaches were inspected and cleared to take visitors around the park's northeast corner, near Camp Snoopy and Fiesta Village.

About 5:15 p.m. Monday, a coach driven by two employees and pulled by four horses failed to stop as it was ending its six-minute ride on the asphalt trail.

Knott's is investigating what in the braking system, which operates like that of a car, broke down, Tierney said.

The momentum of the coaches, which can weigh up to 4,000 pounds when fully loaded, prevented the horses from stopping, said Kevin Norris, director of ride operations.

Eleven passengers strapped in with lap belts, some seated on top of the 8-foot-tall coach, were jostled as the horses continued toward the loading dock where the ride begins and ends.

"The horses know that trail, and they tried to turn," Tierney said. "They tried to make a right, and they just couldn't. The first horse on the left just took the brunt of everything."

That horse, Chief, died after slamming into a chain-link fence with wooden slats, Tierney said. The other three horses were tangled in their harnesses. One horse's leg needed stitches.

The coach remained upright. The employee sitting shotgun was treated at West Anaheim Medical Center for a minor shoulder injury and released, Tierney said. He returned to work Tuesday, his arm in a sling.

Two passengers who remained at the park later asked to go to the hospital: one about 7 p.m. for high blood pressure, the other about 10 p.m. for a sprained ankle.

Knott's would not release other information about the employee or the two injured guests, Tierney said.

The ride, which opened in 1949, is the park's oldest. Nearly 40 horses are rotated into teams that pull a stagecoach along a trail near a re-created 1880s ghost town.

Buena Park police were notified, as were state regulators, who opted not to investigate the incident because it did not happen on a mechanical ride and because the worker's injury was not considered serious.

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