GRANTSVILLE — An SUV traveling east on state Route 138 struck and killed a horse shortly after 10 p.m. Saturday.

The family in the SUV sustained minor injuries, though the mother was flown by medical helicopter to the hospital as a precaution. All were wearing their seat belts.

According to witnesses, three or four horses were in the road shortly before the accident, said Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Bob Gutierrez. Police were attempting to identify the horses' owner Sunday.

The horse was initially struck by an eastbound pickup truck, flipping it into the path of the SUV. The SUV struck the horse head on and then rolled off the road. The front-seat passengers had to be extricated from the vehicle.

"To top it off, the horse was black. They didn't even see it until they struck it. There was no braking prior to impact. It was just a surprise to them," Gutierrez said.

Three weeks ago, also in Tooele County, an elderly couple was injured and two horses were killed in an accident on state Route 36. That accident also happened late at night when the male driver crashed into the horses, hitting them on the passenger side of the car, UHP said at the time.

Gutierrez said the UHP had not handled a horse-vehicle accident "for quite some time. It's kind of a coincidence we had two back to back like that."

According to an analysis conducted by University of Utah researchers for the Utah Department of Transportation, vehicle-animal accidents account for nearly 5 percent of automobile crashes nationwide. Accidents involving domestic animals such as horses, cows or sheep are generally more severe than those that involve wildlife, according to the report. 

"Overall, there is a 7.9 times greater chance of a fatality with domestic animal accidents compared with wild animals," the 2003 report said.