Fleeing wild horse crushed worker

The horse wrangler who died on the job was crushed by a feral horse attempting to escape. The Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board released its preliminary findings into Arnold Johnson's death yesterday.

The horse wrangler who died on the job was crushed by a feral horse attempting to escape.

The Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board released its preliminary findings into Arnold Johnson’s death yesterday.

Johnson, 57, died near Kusawa Lake in January when he sustained a fatal head injury.

On January 26, the Burwash man was part of a team hired by the government to round up wild horses.

Three workers were herding half a dozen feral horses into a makeshift chute with five-foot-high fencing.

According to the report, metal fencing panels were staked to the ground within a wooden corral.

The chute was being used to guide the animals into a horse trailer to be taken off the property.

“At approximately 10:30 a.m., two of the workers were attempting to close the chute by pivoting one of the metal panels across the entrance while the other attempted to keep the animals from escaping,” the report says.

“One horse escaped the chute by slipping through a gap as one of the metal fence panels was being dragged into position.

“A second horse, following the first, tried to leap the dragged panel, which broke upon impact entangling the horse. The broken panel knocked the victim to the ground and the horse rolled on top of him before getting up.”

The injuries were “not survivable,” the report says. Johnson died the next day at Whitehorse General Hospital.

According to the board, the direct cause of the accident was “that the metal fence panels in the chute were not capable of withstanding the force applied against them and one failed when the wild horse attempted to jump it.”

Safety board spokesperson Richard Mostyn said the preliminary report is just a first step. A complete investigation could take more than a year.

“These preliminary findings are basically released to inform the public of the direct cause of the recent fatality,” he said.

“We really want other Yukoners who are corralling livestock or doing similar activities to examine their equipment and procedures so that other people aren’t injured or killed.”

In the report the safety board reminds all employers that they are required to provide staff with safe work procedures.

Mostyn said his office is nowhere near being able to say whether or not any charges or other sanctions could come from this case.

Ron Billingham, spokesperson for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, said no one from the department would be commenting until the full report is completed.

He said the contract to move the horses was awarded to Dan Sabo, a man with extensive previous experience.

“He was subcontractor to the previous livestock control officer. He’s been doing this contract for the Yukon government for the last couple of years.”

Billingham said the department is co-operating with the health and safety board’s investigation.

Contact Ashley Joannou at


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