Horse killed, Rider seriously injured in multi-vehicle Desert Hot Springs crash

DESERT HOT SPRINGS – A hospitalized equestrian who was thrown from his horse, which was fatally struck by a bus and two other vehicles while trying to cross a Desert Hot Springs roadway, appeared to be at fault for the “preventable accident,” the head of the Department of Animal Services said today.

A Sunbus and an SUV struck the horse and rider around 8:30 p.m. Monday at the intersection of Palm Drive and 20th Avenue. The man was taken to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs for treatment of serious injuries, but no injuries were reported among the occupants of the two vehicles, according to Desert Hot Springs Deputy Police Chief Jim Henson.

The rider, whose name was not released, is believed to have been crossing Palm Drive when the collision occurred, according to the Riverside County Department of Animal Services, which was summoned to retrieve the dead horse.

Although the crash remains under investigation by police, it’s believed that the rider was at fault for not wearing reflective clothing or lights, and crossing when the bus had the right-of-way, according to a statement released by Animal Services.

“We are still receiving information from our friends in law enforcement, and we will let the investigation run its course,” Animal Services Director Robert Miller said. “But initial information leaves us to believe that the horse rider was at fault for this preventable accident.”

Animal Services officials say that after the rider tried to cross Palm Drive, the horse was clipped by the bus, unseating the rider. Startled, the horse bolted across Palm Drive and was struck by a Dodge Durango, then by a third vehicle, but Animal Services officials believe the horse was already dead by that point.

Miller said taking precautions while riding at night, such as wearing reflective clothing and not riding near busy roadways, is an inherent part of responsible horse ownership.

“Reflective gear or some lights should be a must for riders at night, similar to what cyclists use when they’re out during darker hours,” Miller said. “To do so without such gear is highly irresponsible.”

Animal Services spokesman John Welsh said it “is always tragic when an animal dies in such a terrible incident such as this. But we understand, too, people suffered serious injuries, and we hope all involved can recover from their trauma.”

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