Shortly before 9:00 AM on Tuesday, August 14, 2012, we heard what sounded to be an explosion and observed a large cloud of black smoke a few miles away on US50 near Caroline Way in Stagecoach.
Moving closer and observing the scene with binoculars we could see that a stock trailer was involved that appeared to have livestock on board.
A few minutes later we received a request to respond with the panel trailer and a rescue trailer, which we did. Michael Connell responded with the technical large animal rescue equipment. Blaine Northrup from the Nevada Department of Agriculture also arrived to help organize and implement the livestock rescue plans.
The "exploded" trailer was full of heifers and steers that were ejected.
A trailer still holding seven pregnant cows.
Livestock removal was somewhat challenging as this was going to be a complicated accident for the NHP Major Accident Investigation Team to investigate. The stock trailer could not be moved to facilitate removing the cows and we could not encroach into the accident area with vehicles and equipment. NHP focused first on investigating the portion of the accident where the cows were located so that their removal could be expedited. A satisfactory transfer plan was worked out between Northrup and the Incident Commander and a chute system was constructed.
Setting up a transfer chute.
Another view of the chute system.
Loading the cattle.
All but one of the ejected heifers and steers that survived were contained in a privately owned fenced lot. The remaining live heifer was significantly injured and was corralled and loaded where it stood. A screen was constructed from the portable corral panels and the wandering heifers and steers were loaded without incident.
Loading out the formerly loose heifers and steers.
Three vehicles towing trailers were involved in this accident. One of the vehicles towing cattle allegedly lost control and drifted into the oncoming lane. This is a road construction zone so oncoming traffic had very limited space due to the presence of concrete K-rails. The two vehicles hit head on, the green stock trailer separated from its tow vehicle and went over the embankment. The vehicle towing the white stock trailer similarly lost control, possibly having been struck by the detatched green stock trailer or from trying to avoid the initial accident. That combination also went over the embankment. At the time of this posting there have been four confirmed human fatalities and two apparent cattle fatalities.
The westbound vehicle that appeared to have been struck head-on and subsequently caught fire.
The Portable Water Supply was requested to provide water and hay in the event the cattle had to
be sheltered in place, but the removal process went better than expected so it was not needed.
Construction crews quickly smoothed an adjacent dirt utility road to allow backed up traffic to proceed.
We hauled the cattle to Fallon, dividing the load over three horse trailers. Even with smaller loads the conventional stock trailers were quite heavily loaded. While there has been no official determination as to the cause of this accident, it is a stark reminder of the importance of not overloading horse and stock trailers.
You can view a copy of the NHP press release and photos of this incident by clicking here.