WEEKI WACHEE, Fla. -- State troopers said several pigeons flew away following a rollover crash in Hernando County last week.
Frank Varriello said a friend was transporting about 40 of his homing pigeons to a training exercise when the crash happened.
About 20 of his pigeons returned back home following that crash. The other pigeons did not survive.
"They were coming home rough with feathers messed up, broken legs and I got the call saying there was an accident," said Frank Varriello.
Frank Varriello races homing pigeons. The birds are valuable if they win races. They are trained to fly hundreds of miles to return home.
His friend, a pigeon trainer, picked up his racing pigeons early on Thursday morning.
State troopers said the man transporting the birds attempted to make a left turn onto U.S. 19 near Hexam Road in Hernando County.
The crash happened around 6:30 a.m. According to a crash report, the driver of a truck failed to yield to a driver in a van. The truck carrying the pigeons overturned landing on its roof. Frank's friend remains at a local hospital in critical condition.
"We always work together. We train together. We go out together so he is a really good friend of mine," said Varriello.
According to a crash report, there were multiple people in the van. Some of them were transported to local hospitals.
Frank lost about 20 birds. The surviving birds are unable to race until they heal.
"We can replace the pigeons. We can't replace Jeff. The whole club is upset about that and we're praying that he makes it," said Varriello.