When Brian and Chrystal Bruce of Hood River began driving home from a family gathering Nov. 12, little did they know their evening would end in a full-on collision with a horse, just steps from their doorstep on Central Vale Drive.
Luckily the couple, who sustained only minor injuries in the crash, had left their baby to stay with Chrystal's mother for a sleepover.
"The baby's car seat was full of glass from the windshield coming in that far," said Sally Packer-Aiken, Chrystal's mother, describing the terrifying results of the Bruce's collision with the untended horse. Chrystal Bruce blacked out following the crash and was transported by ambulance to PHRMH for neck and shoulder injuries.
"We are very thankful - very lucky to have walked away from this. We just hope that no one else has to go through that. Hopefully those horses will not be out again," Chrystal said.
The couple's Dodge Neon hit the hindquarters of the horse as it was running across the road. The horse's back half crashed into the hood, bounced onto the roof and shattered the windshield before rolling off. The car is nearly totaled.
Ebony, the black quarter horse who was a boarded animal at 4050 Central Vale Drive, sustained a broken leg and hip in the encounter and then ran in a panic from the road.
Dr. Mike Foss of Alpine Veterinary was called to the scene by sheriff deputies immediately after the 9-1-1 emergency call for assistance.
The horse, owned by Maggie and Joe Ybarra, also suffered internal injuries, but fled back to the MMEC stables on its own. Due to extensive injuries and no hope of recovery, the animal was euthanized to prevent further suffering.
The stable property from which the horse strayed is owned by Kevin Slagle. Kathleen Slagle, Kevin's former wife, still resides on the property and Kevin now lives out of state.
According to the Sheriff's dispatch a third party, Kathleen Palmieri, leases a portion of the boarding facility, but the horse involved in the incident was being housed in the Slagles' area.
According to the dispatch record, Kathleen Slagle did not initially respond to deputy contacts and Palmieri was contacted instead during the incident. Palmieri provided information on the injured horse's owners, according to the HRCSO dispatch file.
According to Packer-Aiken, she and multiple other neighbors in the area of the Slagle property and Palmieri boarding area have been sighting and reporting loose horses in the area as far back as April or May.
"There have been up to nine horses out in that area," said Packer-Aiken, whose parents' farm is just steps from the shared stable facility.
Palmieri confirmed to HRCSO staff that her own horses have gotten loose on occasion at the leased side of the property, but indicated that her fences are now secured.
Packer-Aiken said, "Luckily my son-in-law was aware of the possibility of loose horses there. He was traveling very cautiously."
The initial estimate is that Bruce was traveling at only 25 to 30 mph. "There was still a horse out loose again Tuesday (after the crash)," noted Packer-Aiken.
"We are not sure what should happen from here," said Chrystal. "We just want to make sure that no one else has to go through this."
Chrystal noted the family gathering that preceded the accident was a going away party for Chrystal's brother Erik Aiken, who is due to deploy to Afghanistan this month.
"This has been a very hard week for our family," said Chrystal.
"I'm so sorry that this happened," said Ebony's owner, Maggie Ybarra, who is still shaken by the loss of her horse.
HRCSO Animal Services Officer Casey DePriest noted receiving only two direct calls regarding the loose horses since October.
According to HRCSO Det. Matt English, over a period of several months there have been additional calls to the sheriff's department involving the two parties sharing the facilities in addition to horse containment concerns.
The full sheriff deputy report on the incident is still pending.
Kathleen Slagle could not be reached for comment.