LAKE WORTH, Fla. – An electrical malfunction started a barn fire that killed 12 horses and injured 11 at an equestrian complex in suburban Palm Beach, investigators said Wednesday.
Palm Beach County fire investigators concluded the blaze at the South Florida Trotting Center was caused by a "catastrophic failure" at the meter, the Palm Beach Post reported. Sparks ignited hay, feed and other combustibles.
Sam Stathis, the center's owner, told the newspaper that two horses suffered critical injuries. All 11 injured horses were taken to a veterinarian. The fire erupted late Tuesday and burned into the early morning Wednesday.
"We saved 11 horses, and we lost 12," Stathis told the newspaper. "God be with us."
Fire officials told the Post that workers were able to get some horses out as the fire spread. The barn's roof collapsed and hay inside fed the flames.
Stable worker Roman Lopez told WPTV-TV his friend tried to open gates and let horses out, but the thick smoke made it impossible.
"It was just too tough. The roof started to come down. The horses were just on fire. You just freak out. You don't know which way to go," he said.