The day Edna Brinker died, her grandsons sang in the church Christmas play. When the children left the stage, one walked over to Brinker and handed her a candy cane. It might have been the last gift she ever received. That evening, on Dec. 14, 2008, Brinker struck a horse in the road on State Highway 9 west of Shawnee. The 57-year-old died at the scene around 9 p.m. Brinker’s son, Kevin Brinker, 39, said he wants to make sure this kind of accident doesn’t happen to anyone else. "She was our backbone,” Kevin Brinker said. "It’s senseless that horses and livestock can roam free and end up killing people.” He said his family still doesn’t know who owned the horse his mother struck. The collision was so powerful it ripped open the cab of Edna Brinker’s four-door sedan. The trooper investigating the accident talked to neighbors and followed all leads, including one that one of the owners lived in Oklahoma City. But ultimately, there was no way to link the horse to an owner, according to highway patrol reports. Seminole County sheriff’s deputies were among the law enforcement who responded to the scene of the accident. Sheriff Shannon Smith said it’s not uncommon for his deputies to get calls to wrangle cattle and horses roaming loose on county roads. "We get about two calls a day,” he said. "We know who the repeat offenders are, and we have to know whose farm is where.” Drew L. Kershen, agricultural law professor at the University of Oklahoma, said Oklahoma moved from an open to a closed range state around 1920, meaning livestock had to be fenced in. Since then, if any liability is sought from the owners of the livestock that cause wrecks, the owner of the animals has to be proven negligent, Kershen said. But Kevin Brinker said if no one can link an animal to an accident, it’s difficult to know if it’s negligence, an accident or something else. "Some places there are brand laws for horses and cattle, but Oklahoma isn’t one,” Kershen said. "That means if you hit a horse and you don’t know whose it is, there might not be any way to identify who the owners are.” Branding could also help owners find lost or stolen livestock and trace disease, Kershen said. Conversely, the costs, the time involved, and the opportunity to trace animals and hold owners accountable for what they do worries some. "If this were a dog running around a neighborhood street, he would be snatched up, hauled off to the pound and the owner would be fined,” Kevin Brinker said.
TIMELINElivestock involved in 10 deaths since 2002 Since 2002, The Oklahoman has reported 10 fatality accidents on state highways and roads involving motorists striking livestock.
• 2002: Roberta Scheaffer, 51, of El Reno hit a horse on State Highway 66 in Canadian County. She was wearing a seatbelt and pinned in the car. She later died of her injuries.
• 2003: Carter Dale Calvin, 36, died after hitting a horse in Choctaw County, according to Oklahoma Highway Patrol reports.
• 2003: Jason W. Hickey, 23, of Turpin died when the car he in which he was riding hit a cow on U.S. 64 east of Forgan.
• 2004: Michael Aron Lewis, 18, died on State Highway 8 near the Ames blacktop. He tried to avoid horses in the road and was thrown from his car.
• 2005: Victoria T. Young, 56, of Shawnee died after her car struck a horse standing in the road.
• 2005: Charles Ray Nevill, 66, of Clarksville, Texas, died near Idabel after his car struck two horses.
• 2005: Tabitha Dannielle Chaffin, 22, of Beaver died on a Beaver County road after hitting a cow.
• 2006: Joseph Andrew Gilmore, 28, of Vinita died after his car hit a horse in the highway east of Delaware on State Highway 28.