SCHP: Riders on horseback hit by pickup truck

A crash involving a pickup truck and two horses sent three people to the hospital Thursday night.

All lanes of Highway 19, just one mile from Highway 905, were shut down for more than an hour.

According to the South Carolina Highway Patrol, there was one person riding on a horse and two people riding in a buggy pulled by another horse on Highway 19 around 7:40 p.m.

Both horses were hit by a pickup truck. The driver did not see them in the highway, according to troopers.

All three horse riders, ages 18, 19, and 20, were airlifted to Grand Strand Regional Medical Center. Their conditions have not been released.

The driver of the pickup was not injured.

The horses were killed.

There were no lights or reflectors on the horses or buggy, so troopers say no charges will be filed against the driver of the pickup truck.

We asked Corporal Sonny Collins about laws governing horse-drawn vehicles. He says state law Section 56-5-4650 requires all vehicles, including animal-drawn vehicles, to be equipped with at least one white light or lantern visible from a distance of 500 feet to the front of the vehicle, and a red light or reflector visible from 500 feet to the rear.

But, that law applies only "from a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise", according to Section 56-5-4450.

Sunset Thursday was 7:22 p.m. in Conway, according to the National Weather Service. The accident happened at 7:40 p.m., within that 30 minute time frame.

This story has sparked a lively debate on the WPDE Facebook page about the safety of riding horses on a rural highway.

While it appears neither the riders nor the pickup driver were breaking any traffic laws, a local horse expert says there are lessons to be learned from this for both drivers and equestrians.

The founder of the Barnabas Horse Foundation for Children says equestrians have to be extra careful on local roads.

"As Horry County has evolved and gotten more crowded, we have seen an increase in this happening. Horseback riders have less places to ride than we did for those of us who grew up riding pretty much anywhere we wanted to here," said Barnabas president Susan McKinney.

McKinney says on rural roads, drivers tend to go faster and seem to be less aware of surroundings than in heavier traffic.

"So I almost think that the rural highways are more of a danger to equestrians on horseback."

People who live along Highway 19 say it's a busy road. Justin Frankenfielder lives a few houses down from where Thursday's crash happened.

"(Traffic) is quite fast. They seem to always pass right in front of my house, they go about 90 miles an hour. And there's accidents quite often," Frankenfielder said.

McKinney's foundation uses equine therapy to help abused and traumatized children.

She doesn't allow her riders to ride on highways because of the potential for tragedies like what happened Thursday.

"It's a sad situation and our prayers are with all of the people involved. We're very, very sad that this has happened."

McKinney adds drivers also have to be very aware of anything that might be on the road in front of them, like a deer, a horse or a child.