He has worked with rodeo stock before, but never wrestled wild bucking stock on the side of the highway.
A Department of Public Safety officer called large animal veterinarian Drew Justice to Highway 260 just east of Colcord Road on Wednesday, Nov. 9, when a semi truck pulling a trailer of rodeo stock rolled at milepost 277.
Christopher Kohl’s firefighters had already gotten the driver out and airlifted him to the Valley by the time Justice arrived.
The double-deck trailer was lying on its left side against a south side guardrail. The trailer was full of stock headed to a rodeo on the San Carlos Indian Reservation.
One horse had escaped out the back of the trailer and was standing off to the side on a hill.
The other animals were trapped inside.
Justice called the Cowan Ranch in Rye and Bill and Lori Brown and their son Willie of Tonto Basin for help, as he knew they had trailers in which they could load the animals.
Of the 14 horses in the trailer, four were already dead when Justice arrived. He had to euthanize one badly injured horse.
The trailer also contained eight bulls and four steers, all of which survived.
Worried the animals would run down the highway, the rescuers took some time getting the animals safely out.
First, Carl with Carl’s Towing pulled the truck cab away. Then Christopher Creek firefighters cut a hole in the front of the trailer. Rescuers then pulled the horse and livestock trailers up to the overturned trailer so they could safely usher the frightened and disoriented animals to safety.
“I have been on lots of trailer wrecks, but this is definitely one I will remember for sure,” he said.
The next day, on Nov. 10, Dan Thompson of the 13 Ranch and Clint and Jessie James helped Justice round up the one horse that had escaped the night before.
Justice said it took a “huge community effort” to get the animals rounded up and out of the truck, including the help of Justin Deaton with the Payson Police Department.
He said the driver’s son told him the next day he had survived with a few broken bones.