The annual skijoring race in Silverton has been canceled because of an unsettled lawsuit stemming from last year’s event, where three people were run over by a horse spooked by a low-flying drone.
The decision was first reported in this week’s edition of the Silverton Standard & the Miner. The Silverton Skijoring Committee, which made the decision earlier this week, said: “Hopefully, we can hold a bigger and better event in 2019.”
Attempts to reach event organizer Pete Maisel were unsuccessful Thursday.
At the event in February, a horse at the starting line became agitated from a drone hovering overhead, which witnesses said sounded like a swarm of bees.
The horse darted into the crowd, injuring three spectators. One woman suffered a hip injury that required extensive surgery, San Juan County Sheriff Bruce Conrad said at the time it happened.
Maisel told the Silverton Standard there’s a “$1 million lawsuit against the insurance company I had. We’re covered and the town’s covered. We’re OK.”
Because the insurance companies are still negotiating, the claim is considered open, and it’s not possible to get the event insured for this year, Maisel said.
“It’s something we cannot control,” he told the Silverton Standard.
This would have been the ninth annual skijoring competition. The event is by far the most popular of Silverton’s winter activities and draws hundreds of people to the small mountain town.
“It is the Fourth of July of the winter season, business-wise,” said Silverton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director DeAnne Gallegos, referring to the town’s well-attended Independence Day celebration.
Skijoring is a race where skiers hold onto a rope attached to a horse. The animal then pulls the skier through a series of gates and jumps down Silverton’s Blair Street.
Conrad said he was unable to file criminal charges against the drone’s pilot, Matt Crossett, a Durango resident.
“We’re just not finding any of the charges that might be criminal,” Conrad said. “If he was 20 feet off the deck and in the horse’s face, then I think I would be charging reckless endangerment, but without that, if you read the wording of the elements of the crime, it’s just not there, and the DA agreed with me on that.”
Conrad said he notified the Federal Aviation Administration of the incident. The Durango Herald has submitted multiple federal open-records requests to find out if the FAA charged Crossett, but those requests have been continually denied.