Horse and carriage mishap claims life
Joan S. McGurren, a 63-year-old West Tisbury woman who recently fulfilled her dream of retiring to Martha's Vineyard with her husband, died in a horse drawn cart accident Monday.
West Tisbury police reported that Ms. McGurren and her husband were riding in a cart on the couple's property at 18 Road to Great Neck when the horse that was pulling the cart ran off out of control.
The couple was thrown from the cart. Ms. McGurren struck a tree, and her husband struck a split rail fence.
West Tisbury Police Sergeant Dan Rossi responded to a 911 call at approximately 1 pm and found two people tending to a horse that appeared to be stuck between a tree and a fence and still attached to a cart, police said. Ms. McGurren was lying on the ground.
Joan and Henry McGurren. Photo courtesy of family
Tri-town and Oak Bluffs ambulance crews treated Ms. McGurren at the scene and called for the Martha's Vineyard Hospital trauma team to be ready to meet them when they arrived. Ms. McGurren was pronounced dead at the hospital shortly after her arrival, police reported.
Yesterday, speaking from his home, Mr. McGurren, a retired attorney, said that his wife was an experienced and avid horse rider and cart driver. He described the events leading up to the accident.
Mr. McGurren said his wife liked his assistance in the barn. On Monday, he helped his wife harness an eight-year-old horse named Fanny, a horse she was training to drive, to a lightweight English-made cart.
"Usually I go back up the house," he said, "and just once in the while look out the window from time to time. We got the horse harnessed, and I just felt like I'd like to ride along, so I asked her if I could ride along."
His wife said she only wanted to be out for about 20 minutes. "Everything was going perfectly, you know, we were going back and forth," he said. "Suddenly, Fanny just took off as fast as she could go."
He said that his wife was an accomplished driver and managed to take one turn in the speeding cart without overturning. "Then the horse ran at full speed right at a pretty good sized tree that is in our paddock. And we hit the tree," he said. "My wife went into the tree and I went into the fence that was right next to it. And that was it." Mr. McGurren said his wife was wearing a protective helmet, but he was not.
Mr. McGurren ran to the house and called 911. He said police and emergency crews responded quickly.
Ms. McGurren was a commercial graphic artist. She was also an accomplished painter and knitter. This summer she won a first place blue ribbon for an afghan at the Agricultural Fair.
Mr. McGurren said the couple had had a long, seasonal love affair with the Vineyard, going back 40 years, and had many friends and extended family here. In February, after both retired, they moved to the Island from Waterford, Virginia, and became part of the year-round community. "This was our dream to come here," he said.
There will be a memorial service in the West Tisbury Congregational Church on Saturday at 1 pm, officiated by Rev. Arlene Bodge. Arrangements are under the care of the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home, Edgartown Road, Oak Bluffs. For online guest book and information, visit www.ccgfuneralhome.com.
An obituary will appear in next week's edition of The Times.