By Matt de Simone – Contributing writer
Last Tuesday, Eagle Rock remained relatively silent in the morning until news struck that “Smokey,” a resident horse, slipped into a sinkhole on a farm near the 8500 block of Route 220 north. Botetourt County Fire & EMS got the call around noon.
While sinkholes aren’t a common occurrence in Eagle Rock, nearby places are known to have caverns or caves, like Oriskany and Lignite, which can cause sinkholes. This particular sinkhole in Eagle Rock opened up about a year ago, and has since grown roughly seven to eight feet deep.
One question this situation poses is if Eagle Rock is susceptible to sinkholes. “Eagle Rock isn’t known for them,” Botetourt County Chief of Fire & EMS Jason Ferguson explained. “If you look around the country, sinkholes have become a lot more common in places people don’t expect them.”
Ferguson went on to say that this isn’t the first time his crew had to rescue an adventurous animal. The department previously liberated a horse who ventured up the stairs of a hayloft but couldn’t get back down the stairs. They’ve dealt with digging out a cow stuck in the mud as well.
“It’s just part of the rural landscape,” Ferguson said.
The rescue squad used a unique bridle made for lifting heavy animals. One crew member constructed a “Swiss seat” harness out of the bridle connected to a boom truck, wrapped it around the sedated horse, and then pulled Smokey to freedom. Smokey had spent several hours on his backside, awaiting a rescue attempt.
Botetourt Fire & EMS were able to extract the horse around 2 p.m. while also contacting the owners to inform them of the rescue.
The reasons why Smokey fell into the sinkhole are still unknown. There were no witnesses. It could’ve been coincidental. Perhaps the horse meant to sink his hooves into the ground to set a different course, only to discover the cavity. Unfortunately, Smokey was unable to comment but is believed to be in good health following the incident.