Central Park horse and carriage accident reignites horse-drawn carriage debate

Oreo the carriage horse restrained by NYPD cops at Columbus Circle on Thursday. Inset - Oreo collapses exhausted, tourist thrown from the carriage shocked by the ordeal

A bucking carriage horse sent one driver and two passengers flying from their seats during rush hour traffic in Manhattan, reigniting the longstanding debate over the popular tourist attraction where dozens of Irish drivers work

The brown and white horse, named Oreo, was spooked by close passing traffic when the driver Mehmet Dundar attempted to merge into a lane at Columbus Circle at around 4:20pm, on Thursday.

The six-year-old gelding bucked and managed to break free from the carriage dumping Dundar and the two Australian passengers to the ground, witnesses said.

The spirited horse galloped away, hitting a parked car before it was police officers from Midtown North precinct corralled him four blocks away on Ninth Avenue.

The Horse and Carriage Association came out in defense of the incident which occurred close to Columbus Circle.

“We are lucky that no one was hurt,” admitted Stephen Malone of the Horse and Carriage Association.

Defending Thursday’s incident , Malone said the horse involved had been working in the city for three months.

“This is not a common occurrence; this is not something that happens daily, weekly or monthly.”

Malone told IrishCentral the Association would be reevaluating Oreo’s future as a carriage horse In NYC. While he is a relatively new addition to the fleet of  NYC carriage horses, Malone said this was the route the horse was taken on each day.

Dunbar, the carriage driver was taken to Bellevue hospital but released soon after with a minor injury to his leg.

According to the New York Daily News, the passengers involved were Australian tourist Nathan and Kelly Thompson,  who were visiting from Australia. They were taken to St. Luke’s Hospital where they were also treated for minor injuries.

Advocates against horse-drawn carriages seized the opportunity reignite the debate.

“The horse-drawn carriage industry is inherently dangerous,” said Assembly member Linda Rosenthal.

“Despite claiming to have taken every available precaution, the industry cannot ensure the basic safety of the horses or the public.”

Rosenthal is still campaigning for the passage of her bill which would see horse-drawn carriages banned from the city and replaced by replica Model T electric cars.

Despite Thursday’s accident, on his radio show Friday morning Mayor Bloomberg insisted he still supports the industry.

“We certainly aren’t banning automobiles every time there’s an accident,” Bloomberg said.

“The Health Department and the ASPCA make sure they’re healthy. As long as they’re treated well I think it’s something that a lot of tourists really love,” Bloomberg added. “It makes New York, New York. It would be a shame to lose them.”