Bury St Edmunds: Organiser of event where woman fatally injured by horse ‘assumed’ operator was competent, inquest told

THE lead organiser at a Suffolk showground where a runaway horse and carriage fatally injured a partially-sighted grandmother has told an inquest that no written risk assessment had been carried out.

Carole Bullett, 57, of Clark Walk, Bury St Edmunds, died from serious chest injuries in Addenbrooke’s Hospital shortly after being knocked down at the Nowton Park Country Fair in June 2011.

The inquest into her death has heard how a four-year-old Breton horse called Lucas, which had been giving rides to visitors, had bolted into crowds shortly after having its bridle removed.

Yesterday John Smithson, park redevelopment manager for St Edmundsbury Borough Council, told the inquest jury that there was “no specific risk assessment of horse and carriage rides” and that he was also unaware of what qualifications horse owner Duncan Drye might have.

Mr Smithson said based on his knowledge of Mr Drye, who at that time was running horse drawn tours of Bury St Edmunds, he “assumed he was a competent and responsible person.”


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The inquest was told that Mr Drye emailed a health and safety document to Mr Smithson in the days after the incident but there was no specific risk assessment for horse and carriages.

But Mr Smithson, who has organised the Nowton Park event since 1990, said he had met with Mr Drye days before the event to discuss possible risks and confirm the route of the horse and carriage rides.

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He said: “From my point of view I would consider that to be a dynamic risk assessment of the situation.”

Mr Smithson added that he believed it was more important to know how the event will work “rather than have a bit of paper.”

Suffolk Coroner, Dr Peter Dean, replied: “But presumably there is a purpose to bits of paper.”

Mr Smithson, answered: “Yes there is and it would have been best practice to have had that in place on the day.”

The inquest was told that a risk assessment form on horse and carriages had been completed by Mr Smithson, but that it had been filled in after the event.

The event organiser said a date that suggested he had filled in the document before the event was incorrect.

Mike Atkins, representing St Edmundsbury Borough Council, asked what purpose the document, described by Mr Smithson as an “aide-m�moire”, served.

Mr Smithson said he had hoped been “trying to explore with hindsight what we could have done.”

The inquest continues.

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