NYCLASS and PETA said a witness snapped this image shortly after a horse carriage fell near Central Park on Wednesday. Credit: NYCLASS/PETA
In the middle of an ongoingdebate over the future of the city's horse carriages, there were conflicting accounts about what caused one to overturn near Central Park and Fifth Avenue on Wednesday.
According to the anti-horse carriage group NYCLASS, an eyewitness from Oklahoma told PETA that a bus drove close to a horse near 59th Street and Fifth Avenue in the late afternoon.
"The horse bucked and started to run when its carriage went of the curb and pinned the animal to the ground," the witness said in an email to PETA.
NYCLASS and PETA planned a protest at the intersection for Thursday afternoon.
While the witness description provided by those groups suggested those nearby held down the horse to "save" the carriage first, horse carriage advocates provided a very different account of what they called a "minor" incident.
Around 4:20 p.m., the carriage's back wheel was caught on another carriage pulling out of the intersection, according to the Horse and Carriage Association of New York and the union representing the drivers. The carriage tipped over and 15-year-old horse Spartacus lost his footing, falling to the sidewalk.
Nearby carriage drivers were working to unharness Spartacus and put the carriage upright "before safely allowing him to get to his feet," according to that account.
Spartacus was then driven to his stable on West 38th Street where the union said a vet gave him a clean bill of health.
"He had been waiting quietly for a ride when the other carriage hit his. He did not spook. He did not collapse. Contrary to rumors, he was not startled by a bus; there was no bus on 59th St. at the time," carriage driver Christina Hansen, who witnessed the incident according to the union, said in a statement.
In an unrelated press conference Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio supported the account from NYCLASS and PETA, calling the incident "one in a long line of accidents."
"What happened yesterday -- a horse was spooked by a bus nearby," he said. "A horse is not supposed to be right next to a bus in the middle of the biggest city in the country."
Though a recent poll suggested most New Yorkers support the tourist mainstay, de Blasio has repeatedly backed plans to ban the horse carriages.