A fire tore through a Kentucky horse training center early Sunday morning, killing 23 horses, the facility's owner told local media.
Eric Reed, owner of the Mercury Equine Center in Lexington, said that 36 horses were inside the barn when the fire broke out at around 1:15 a.m. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that Reed and six other employees rushed into the wooden barn as the fire raged.
"They were heroes, the people who work for me," Reed told the paper. “They went above and beyond what I could even imagine anybody trying to do. We ran into the barn, the smoke was so black we couldn’t even see. The only thing you could see was the flames."
The paper reported that 13 horses managed to escape the blaze. However, Reed estimated that around $2 million was lost in the fire, between the deaths of the horses and the destruction of the barn.
Reed said most of the horses that died were yearlings and some were racehorses. He told the Herald-Leader that one of the horses killed in the fire was a 3-year-old filly who recently won $100,000 in a stakes race. Another horse was scheduled to race Monday in Ohio.
"I’ll never get this nightmare out of my mind," Reed told the Herald-Leader.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Severe thunderstorms moved through the area Saturday night, and Reed speculated that the barn may have been struck by lightning.
About 50 horses in other barns at the facility were unharmed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.