A harrowing and potentially deadly situation unfolded on Interstate 69 on January 27 as a semi-truck and trailer carrying a menagerie of circus animals became engulfed in flames.
Thanks to the swift actions of Indiana law enforcement officers, the lives of five zebras, four camels and a miniature horse were saved from the burning vehicle.
Indiana State Police Trooper Edward Titus, on routine patrol at the time, was the first to spot the blaze.
Despite the perilous conditions, the semi-truck driver managed to escape, but the animals trapped inside required immediate assistance.
Trooper Titus, alongside Grant County Deputy Joshua Kennedy, acted immediately to rescue the trapped animals, risking their own safety in the process.
With the help of fire crews and additional officers, the animals were safely led to freedom as the interstate was temporarily closed to ensure their safety.
Sergeant Steven Glass of the Indiana State Police recounted the heroic efforts.
“The tractor-trailer caught fire about 2 a.m. along Interstate 69 in Grant County, and a state trooper, a Grant County Sheriff’s deputy, and a third person rescued the five zebras, four camels, and a miniature horse by leading them off the smoke-filled trailer,” Glass stated.
Remarkably, despite the intensity of the blaze, none of the animals sustained injuries, and their driver emerged unscathed.
An investigation later revealed that equipment failure was the cause of the fire, prompting a temporary closure of the interstate for approximately four and a half hours.
Both Trooper Titus and Deputy Kennedy were briefly treated at a hospital for smoke inhalation and later discharged.
Images shared by the Grant County Sheriff’s Office on social media captured the surreal sight of camels and zebras traversing the highway, later standing alongside law enforcement officers.
“It’s not something we see every day,” Deputy Brent Russell said.
The driver later informed police that the truck was en route from Florida to Fort Wayne for a series of weekend circus performances organized by the Mizpah Shrine Circus.
Steve Trump, the circus director, was grateful that no harm befell the animals, noting the importance of these annual fundraisers in supporting the Shrine Center’s mission to assist children in need.
Following the ordeal, a second truck was dispatched from Fort Wayne to transport the animals to safety, ensuring they would still fulfill their roles in the upcoming circus performances.