Charleston Police are investigating an incident where someone dressed in an orange dinosaur costume reportedly spooked carriage horses downtown.
As a result, police say the carriage driver lost his balance and fell to the ground, where a carriage wheel then rolled over one of his legs. Police say the man was taken to Roper Hospital. Palmetto Carriage Works says the driver suffered a broken foot.
The incident happened around 5:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon in the area of Church Street and Linguard Street, according to police.
Witnesses told police the person in the dinosaur costume was walking south on the sidewalk on Church Street ahead of the horse drawn carriage.
According to the incident report, when the carriage got close, witnesses said the person in the costume stopped and began making growling noises at the horses.
This spooked the horses and they began backing up, causing the carriage to hit an unoccupied vehicle parked on the street, resulting in minor damage to its bumper.
Police say this is when the driver fell off the carriage.
"The person ignored multiple warnings from the carriage driver and bystanders to move away from the horses," said Tommy Doyle, manager of Palmetto Carriage Works. "The horses reacted, causing the driver to be thrown from the carriage and one of the horses to take a seated position."
None of the passengers on the carriage were injured. One of the horses received very minor abrasions from the fall, Palmetto Carriage Works said.
“Everybody got off the wagon. It was kind of a panic situation,” said Tom Gibson, a passenger on the carriage.
“Some people were jumping the railing to get out there, some people were holding the horse reigns, some people were helping the driver,” said Shelby Salvador, a Jacksonville tourist dining just feet from the incident.
Randy Swails, another passenger commended the driver for controlling the situation.
“He jumped up off the pavement, the driver did, and was worried about his horses,” Swails said. “So, it’s amazing he was up and walking (after being run over).”
Neither Swails, Gibson, nor Salvador heard growling. They said it looked like a big misunderstanding.
“I don’t think he (the person in the dinosaur costume) was antagonizing them at all,” Swails said. “He froze, in fact, and didn’t know what to do.”
“I didn’t hear any of that,” said Salvador. “I think it was just happenstance. I think she (the person in the dinosaur costume) was going somewhere and then the horses were coming down the road at the same time. It looked like it was just a freak accident.”
The Charleston Animal Society announced Thursday it is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any individual who did this today with the intent to torment the carriage horses.
Palmetto Carriage Works said in a statement Thursday it believes "radical animal rights activists" may have been behind the incident.
The statement reads in part:
Today's assault is outrageous and has no place in Charleston. The harassment our horses and mules receive from radical animal rights activists is creating an environment that is dangerous for animals and people. The City of Charleston needs to condemn these tactics and warn groups that encourage this behavior that their rhetoric is fueling this danger.
Palmetto Carriage Works loves our animals and their well-being is our top priority. We wish we could say the same about the individual in the dinosaur costume and the groups encouraging this dangerous behavior.
Anyone with information about this incident can call 843-743-7200, and ask for the on duty Charleston Police detective.