June 2013 | Trailer Fire Kills 30 Horses from Shippensburg
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Trailer Fire Kills 30 Horses from Shippensburg
June 2013 - Suzanne Bush

On May 6 a trailer carrying 30 horses caught fire along Interstate 81 near the town of Lisle, NY. The trailer was hauling horses from Shippensburg, Pennsylvania to an abattoir in Canada. All thirty horses died in the fire.

According to New York State Police Captain Eric Janis, the vehicle was a 53 foot stock trailer designed to carry bulk horses. “We have found no violation of law with the trailer,” Janis explained. He said a fuel tank ruptured, spraying fuel onto the truck. The fuel caught fire and quickly engulfed the trailer. “We do not know what ruptured the fuel tank,” Janis said. “There was no accident that we are aware of. There was a fire. There was a fuel leak for some reason. It was a fire, not an accident.”

An article in the Syracuse, NY Post Standard reported that Contri said the fire was caused by a leak in a passenger-side, 130-gallon fuel tank, which leaked for half a mile on the highway before igniting. The diesel fuel sprayed the tires of the horse trailer, causing it to catch fire.  When the fire started, the driver tried to unhook the trailer from the cab, but it was too late, the article continued. The fire consumed the trailer and eventually spread to a nearby bush after a tire blew.

About 35 firefighters fought the blaze with two fire engines and two tanker trucks while firefighters helped block off the highway.

The incident has generated numerous calls to police.  Janis said the truck had two ramps to get horses off and on and that it was not a double-decker, in which it is illegal to transport horses.

Janis said that the driver of the truck, Clarence Phelps of Watertown, NY, was not injured in the accident. Sawyer had tried to save the horses by unhooking the trailer and was nearly injured when one of the truck’s tires exploded. The trailer was owned by Bruce Rotz of Shippensburg, PA. Rotz declined to comment when asked about the incident.

The Horse reported May 8 that Janis said no one has been charged in connection with the incident.  “So far it looks like all the laws concerning transport were being followed,” Janis said. “However, the incident is still under investigation.”