Three horses died after a tractor trailer truck carrying dozens of horses overturned on Interstate 40 in Williamson County Monday evening, shutting down the interstate for several hours.
The wreck was reported around 5:15 p.m. in the westbound lanes of I-40 near mile marker 182 in Fairview, about 30 miles west of Nashville.
According to the Tennessee Department of Transportation, 38 horses were onboard and three of those horses died.
A preliminary investigation has found the driver of the semi-truck, Mance Frank Reed, fell asleep behind the wheel, veered off the right side of the road and lost control, causing the trailer to overturn onto its side.
Both westbound lanes were blocked and traffic was diverted off I-40 at McCrory Lane, mile marker 192, and onto Highway 70S.
Reed, 49, received minor injuries in the accident, but refused to be transported to an area hospital.
No other vehicles were involved.
The surviving horses were transported to the Dickson Livestock Center, Inc. in nearby Dickson County and were later moved to an undisclosed location early Tuesday.
The semi-truck involved is registered to Three Angels Farms in Lebanon.
Over the phone Tuesday, owner Dorian Ayache told Nashville's News 2 media reports that the horses were being transported to a slaughterhouse in Texas are untrue.
He said the horses were on their way to a range in Oklahoma where they were to be prepped to be sold to horse owners.
Ayache said the horses are dirty but in good health. He said they are back on his farm, located at 151 Mill Road in Lebanon, but he refused to grant News 2 access to the property.
Additionally, Ayache said he and his wife have been in the horse business for 25 years and are devastated by what happened.
He declined an on-camera interview and requested his name be omitted from media reports.
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture said Tuesday it was first notified of the accident minutes after it was reported, and received a formal request for assistance from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency a few minutes later.
Spokesperson Casey Mahoney said local veterinarians Dr. Monty McInturff and Dr. Danny Haber responded to the scene and off-loaded the animals with the assistance of state animal health technicians.
The scene was cleared and I-40 reopened around 11 p.m.
In an interview Tuesday, Dr. McInturff told Nashville's News 2 at least 100 people responded to help.
"It was amazing to see everyone calm, the animals calm, everyone appeared to be very organized and worked together as a team," he said. "My concern was to make sure the animals were taken from the scene in a very orderly fashion and I was concerned about their safety and wanted to make sure they were healthy when they were removed from the wreckage."
Dr. McInturff said all of the horses were alive immediately following the crash and they chose to put down three of them due to the severity of their injuries.
"The horses were definitely in shock, had some contusion but the horses that we had to euthanize had severe injures and could not rise," he continued. "I was really surprised to see how calm the horses were. The trailer was on its side and the horses were standing calmly."
He added, "They were definitely asking for assistance and we helped them."
The accident remains under investigation.
The Humane Society of the United States says it has been reported to them that the majority of the horses had green tags, a typical indicator they are bound for slaughter.
Truck driver Reed is expected to face a series of charges.