Crash kills racing pigeons being transported for training

A roll-over accident in Hernando County Thursday morning is costing several pigeon racers thousands of dollars and, in some cases, some of their most prized birds.

Frank Varriello’s pigeons returned home shaken or injured after the truck they were in was involved in an accident Thursday morning at Hexam Road and U-S 19. 

Florida Highway Patrol officers say a truck carrying more than a hundred pigeons from seven different owners rolled three times after being struck in an intersection.

The birds were on their way to a training exercise when the accident happened. Pigeons are known as smart birds, that are able to return to their coops as far as 600 miles.

Varriello knew something was wrong when some of the birds flew in too early. Five of his birds died at the scene of the crash.  

“I’m devastated. It knocks me out of the race for the season,” Varriello said. “They are like my children. I spend anywhere from four to eight hours a day with them.” 

FHP says the driver of the pigeon truck was rushed to a hospital. The accident happened as pigeon racers in Hernando County have had to increase security at least one coop has been the target of thieves.