Bury St Edmunds: Fair ride provider had a good relationship with horses – court hears

This is the devastating moment a country fair descended into "carnage" when a horse bolted with its

This is the devastating moment a country fair descended into "carnage" when a horse bolted with its cart Glenda Cole/ Masons /SWNS Group - Credit: SWNS.com

The organiser of a country fair at which a grandmother was fatally injured when a horse bolted into the crowd has told a court if he had concerns that the carriage rides were unsafe, he would not have allowed them to take place.

John Smithson, St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s parks operations manager, told a jury that he and Duncan Drye, who provided the rides at Nowton Country Park Fair in June 2011, met on site before the event to discuss the location of the rides.

He said of Drye: “He had a good relationship with them [horses]. You felt relaxed with him because you knew he was in control of them.”

Asked by his barrister Jim Ageros: “If you had any doubts would he have been allowed to operate rides at the country fair?” Mr Smithson replied “no”.

He said he knew Drye had public liability insurance for £1million but did not know this was a fifth of what was required for traders and stall-holders.

Mr Smithson said he had risk assessment training and during his previous meeting with Drye he had applied his understanding of the process to their conversation and had not been left feeling uncertain.

He said the fact Drye was only asked to provide horse and carriage rides at the last minute had not compromised the event’s safety.

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Mr Smithson was giving evidence on day three of the Ipswich Crown Court trial of the borough council, which has denied failing to ensure that visitors to the country fair were not exposed to risks to their health and safety in June 2011. Drye, 64, of Bishops Road, Bury St Edmunds, has admitted the charge.

It has been alleged that the consequences of the horse bolting into a crowd while attached to a carriage could have been avoided if adequate risk assessment checks had been carried out.

Carole Bullett, of Clark Walk, Bury, died from serious chest injuries in Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, after being knocked down by a runaway horse and carriage at the country fair. The trial continues today.