LENOX -- A Lenox High School senior and an exchange student are recovering from serious injuries after an equestrian incident in Kennedy Park last month.
On April 19, a group of four horseback riders encountered an unrestrained dog, which spooked the horses and caused three of the riders to be thrown to the ground.
The riders were guided by Dan Brinton, who was working for Berkshire Horseback Adventures, based at Aspinwall Stables on Main Street.
Two victims were transported to Berkshire Medical Center with extensive injuries. Elena Giordano, an exchange student from Italy, then was airlifted to Albany Medical Center and underwent several surgeries because of collarbone, pelvic and other internal organ injuries. She is now continuing extended treatment at BMC.
The second victim, Lenox resident Sarah McKenna, whose family was hosting Giordano, is recovering at home after hospitalization at BMC for two broken vertebrae and a concussion.
The third rider, Katelyn Monteleone, a senior at Lenox Memorial High School, was able to dismount without injury.
Lenox police, fire and ambulance responded to the scene.
Brinton's horse suffered injuries from dog bites and is continuing to recover, according to town Selectman David Roche, who owns Aspinwall. The other three horses were unhurt.
"The dog was on a leash but the owner was not at the other end," said Roche, who has offered a $100 reward for information about the dog's owner.
"Dogs need to be leashed in Kennedy Park for safety reasons," McKenna said, recalling that she had been fearful at the start of her ride because there many loose dogs.
"This dog's leash got tangled around the horse's legs and he started to bite," she said in a phone interview. "I love when dogs run free, but it's dangerous."
McKenna spoke of "amazing, beautiful" community support and kindness after the incident, but called the dog owner "a coward. I can't see leaving the scene of an accident."
Giordano, who is facing a year of recovery, is missing out on "the best part of the year at school" and the date of her return home to Italy remains uncertain, McKenna said.
In Roche's view, "dogs and horses have safely mixed in Kennedy Park. I've ridden there for 25 or 30 years and never had a serious incident."
But he agreed that the town's dog restraint bylaw is vaguely written. It makes no mention of leashes, though it states that, away from their property, owners are required to restrain their canines or face a $5 fine.
At the main entrance to Kennedy Park, a sign advises visitors that "dogs need to be under their owners' control at all times."
"We should make the definitions clearer as to what restraint is," Roche said. "But I'd hate to think that this particular accident leads to some draconian measures with dogs in the park. The owners should know their dogs, know what their limitations are, and act accordingly."