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Horse dies after accident on I-75

Susan Gannon sobbed as weary rescuers slipped a blanket over the body of Marquet Special.

The 4-year-old thoroughbred, the one Gannon had raised since birth, had been so full of life only hours earlier. Now she lay dead, an unborn foal in her womb.

It marked a sad ending to a wreck Thursday on Interstate 75 that saw passers-by, Florida Highway Patrol troopers, Pasco County sheriff's deputies, fire rescue crews and local veterinarians pitch in to help.

Gannon said she was driving two of her horses _ Marquet Special and Love After Dark _ south on I-75 toward her Double G Farm in Lutz about 11:30 a.m. She had picked them up after breeding them at a farm in Ocala. Both were pregnant.

Gannon told troopers that as she crossed under an overpass, traveling about 60 mph, a semitrailer with a red cab rocketed past her. She said the sudden airstream caused the trailer carrying her two horses to fishtail.

Next thing she knew, it flipped, crashing to the interstate with the thoroughbreds.

"It was all so surreal," she said, describing how the accident seemed to happen in slow motion. "I looked in my rear view mirror, and my trailer was up in the air."

With Gannon's nerves frayed, traffic screeching to a halt and her horses injured and bleeding, several passers-by stopped to help.

"I just saw the horses lying on their back," said Jim Sandoval of Cross Creek, who was headed with his family to Busch Gardens. "I tried to keep them calm until help got here."

Sandoval and his son, John, stuck around even after emergency workers arrived, to hand out cold Cokes and water.

Soon rescue workers, law enforcement officers and veterinarians arrived, eager to help the injured horses. After wrestling to get both horses out of the trailer, workers took them to a grassy area of an exit ramp near Pasco-Hernando Community College.

Both horses stood quietly at first. But Marquet Special lost blood, lost energy and finally fell to the ground. She never would stand back up, despite a swarm of rescuers giving her fluids, steroids and patting her down with wet towels in the blistering afternoon sun.

Trooper J.T. Gilcher, his uniform drenched in sweat and mud, walked back to his patrol car looking defeated after veterinarians euthanized the horse.

"My father owns a thoroughbred farm in Ocala, and I used to manage it, so this is a little like second nature to me," Gilcher said. "I had to walk away after she died. It's tough. They are horses, but they are a big part of these people's lives."

Marsha Eidherney, a veterinarian with Daniels & Daniels in Zephyrhills, felt the same. She said the impact of the crash fractured Marquet Special's spine and took away feeling in her leg.

"It's nothing you can do anything about," Eidherney said. "But you never like to see an animal in that shape."

She said that Love After Dark suffered cuts around her eye and was limping but was likely to recover.

Gannon said she owns about 20 horses, but losing even one of them was like parting with a family member.

"I don't have any children," she said. "These are my children."

Still, though the day ended sadly for her, Gannon said she felt gratitude toward those strangers who rushed to the rural stretch of highway to try to save Marquet Special.

"There were some angels out on this road today," she said.