Carriage Horse Dies in Accident in New York City's Central Park

One of the horses that pulls carriages around Central Park died Friday after breaking loose and running into a tree, police said.

Witnesses said the horse, which became startled by a street performer playing a drum, ran nearly a block along the sidewalk on the southern edge of the park before colliding with the tree, said Joseph Pentangelo, assistant director of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The witnesses, who spoke to ASPCA inspectors, said the crash spooked a second horse that took off into the busy street, carriage still attached. The buggy collided with a Mercedes Benz sedan, and both vehicles sustained minor damage. The sedan driver was issued a summons for unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, Pentangelo said.

"We are devastated by the tragic and sudden loss of our mare Smoothie," said Carolyn Daly, a spokeswoman for the Horse & Carriage Association of New York. "This afternoon's freak accident was overwhelming to all of us in the industry who so dearly love our horses."

Smoothie, 13, had been a carriage horse for only a year, Daly said.

The incident comes amid increased scrutiny of the carriage horse industry in New York. An audit released last week by the city comptroller concluded the animals work without enough water, shade or oversight from authorities.

Last year, a horse pulling a Central Park carriage to a stable on the far West Side became spooked in traffic and galloped down a busy street until it collided with a car. The carriage driver was injured, and the horse had to be euthanized.