Bury St Edmunds: Woman hit by horse ‘never stood a chance’

A GRANDMOTHER who was flung 6ft into the air by a runaway horse and carriage at a packed Suffolk showground “never stood a chance”, an inquest has been told.

Carole Bullett, 57, of Clark Walk, Bury St Edmunds, died from serious chest injuries soon after the incident at the Nowton Park Country Fair in June 2011.

Yesterday the horror that unfolded as the powerful four-year-old Breton horse, which had been giving rides to visitors, ploughed through families, were revisited.

On the first day of the inquest at The Farmers’ Club, Bury, the jury was told that Mrs Bullett – described in a statement by her husband as “a loving wife, mother and grandmother”– had been enjoying a Sunday afternoon out with her family when the incident happened.

Malcolm Crowther, Health and Safety Executive inspector for the East, told the inquest the carriage rides at the fair had been operated by Duncan Drye and Sally Tyrell.

Mr Drye, who also gave similar rides in Bury town centre, had been approached by fair organiser St Edmundsbury Borough Council after its usual operator became unavailable.

The jury heard that at about 4.20pm Miss Tyrell, who had finished giving rides on the horse Lucas for the day, was told by Mr Drye to remove the bridle so the horse could eat some hay.

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The inquest was told that the bridle was replaced by a lighter head collar and Miss Tyrell held the horse’s lead rope in one hand and a hay net in the other.

Mr Crowther said moments later Lucas put up his head “as if startled” and moved off at speed – heading south to the car park before galloping back down Lime Avenue towards stalls and attractions bustling with people.

It was then, the jury was told, that Mrs Bullett, who was put on the blind register in 1992, was hit by the runaway horse.

Witness Jean Cramer said she watched helplessly as the horse bore down on the former St Benedict’s Catholic School dinner lady and Wedgewood House worker.

Mrs Cramer, whose statement was read to the inquest by Suffolk coroner Peter Dean, said: “She never had a chance.”

Her statement, which described vivid flashbacks to the incident, revealed that the carriage’s wheels had passed over Mrs Bullett’s body.

A statement by Elisabeth Haslam was also read to the inquest. Mrs Haslam was at a stall when she saw the horse bolting forward, still attached to its carriage, the jury was told.

“The horse was running at full speed with the cart bouncing around behind it. Everyone was screaming, they were all trying to dive for cover,” she said. The horse had then “clattered” into a female who had been “catapulted” about 6ft into the air.

Other witness statements suggested there had been a number of loud bangs throughout the day.

Patricia Starling said she had noticed children throwing explosive “caps” and described the Nowton Park event as “the noisiest fair this summer.”

The inquest was told that Mrs Bullett was taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge for emergency treatment but died a short time later.

Pathologist Dr Dada said Mrs Bullett had received a number of fractures to her ribs and that blunt-force trauma to the chest had been the cause of death. The inquest continues today.

AN EXPERT in carriage driving suggested that some horses can become excited after their bridles are removed.

John Parker, who has driven horses since 1959 and has competed for Great Britain in international events, played a DVD to the inquest jury.

In the film of one of his own horses, the bridle was removed from a stationary animal.

Pointing to the footage he said: “Watch the change in the horse. His ears (their movement) are better than his voice.

“He’s saying ‘where are the sweets? Why am I standing here?’”

Mr Parker also said the use of a head collar would only give a small amount of control.

He added: “There is tremendous strength in their heads and necks. The amount of control you have on a head collar is minimal.

“All he wants to do is get the gear off. It’s the end of the day.”