Coy Lutz competes in the bareback event during opening night of the Cowtown Rodeo, Saturday, May 28, 2016. (Jesse Bair | For NJ Advance Media)
PILESGROVE TWP. — A 19-year-old cowboy died after being stepped on several times by a horse at Cowtown Rodeo Saturday night.
Coy Lutz, of Howard, Pennsylvania, was competing in the bareback bronc riding event on the opening night of the rodeo's 62nd season.
"He was a nice kid, a really nice kid, from a nice family," said Cowtown Rodeo owner/producer Grant Harris.
According to Harris, this is the first time a cowboy has died from injuries sustained while taking part in the rodeo here.
"It's tragic and traumatic to our entire industry," Harris said Sunday morning.
A message on the rodeo's Facebook page read in part "... our thoughts and prayers are with all who knew and loved him."
This was the second season that Lutz had competed at Cowtown Rodeo.According to Harris, the cowboy's mother and father were among the 2,200 spectators who witnessed the accident.
The bareback bronc riding event was the third event of the night. Five riders had registered to take part. Lutz was the fourth to compete.
As the name suggests, in bareback bronc riding there is no saddle on the horse, only a wide strap called a surcingle that goes around the horse's chest and back with a handle on top the cowboy holds on to. To be eligible for prize money, the cowboy must stay on the bucking animal for a full eight seconds.
The horse, named H3, "turned back," Harris said, meaning the animal was bucking in a tight circle in a spinning motion instead of bucking while in a forward motion.
Lutz was bucked off and fell to the arena's floor under the horse's hooves and was stepped on "several times," Harris said. The bucking horses can weigh 1,250 pounds.
Arena staff were able to get the horse away from Lutz and came to the cowboy's aid. EMTs from the American Legion Ambulance Squad, which is always on the scene during the weekly rodeos, immediately came into the arena.
Lutz was taken to The Memorial Hospital of Salem County in Mannington Township where he was pronounced dead.
Rodeo is a dangerous sport. Several of the riding events use wild horses and bulls.
Over the years, Harris said, numerous cowboys have suffered broken arms, legs and ribs while competing, but the death of Lutz was a tragic first at Cowtown.
"It's a physical contact sport," Harris said.
Harris said he had spoken with Lutz just before Saturday night's rodeo began.
He said Lutz told him that he was enrolled at the University of Tennessee at Martin, where he was doing well academically and with collegiate rodeo.
Lutz reportedly has been a longtime rodeo competitor, starting in high school.
Harris said the accident has shaken the close-knit rodeo family here.
"He was well-spoken with good manners," Harris said. "He comes from a good family."