‘A few seconods of total carnage’: The moment blind grandmother was trampled to death by rampaging horse at country fair
This is the devastating moment a country fair descended into “carnage” after a horse bolted with its cart – trampling a blind grandmother to death.
Tragic Carole Bullett, 57, was catapulted 6ft into the air by the rampaging animal at Nowton Park Country Fair, Suffolk, on June 19, 2011.
Mrs Bullett was at the fair with her daughter and seven-year-old grandson, Bury St Edmunds Coroner’s Court heard.
The inquest was told handler Sally Tyrrell was holding a lead rope and hay bag when horse called ‘Lucas’ was suddenly startled and bolted through the crowds.
Mrs Bullett was hit by the galloping beast and thrown up into the air and as she landed the animal trampled on her – crushing her chest with the wheels of its cart.
She was rushed to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, but died in the early hours of the following day, June 20.
Pathologist Dr Dada said Mrs Bullett suffered fractures to her ribs and a fatal blunt force trauma to the chest.
The inquest heard the weary horse, owned by Duncan Drye, bolted after he told handler Sally to remove its bridle so it could eat some hay.
But in their evidence horse and cart experts said the harness should never have been taken off in such a busy, open space.
Jurors were also was told Mr Drye had not handed in a written risk assessment before the event.
In a statement bystander Elisabeth Haslam described “screaming” crowds of people as Mrs Bullett was “catapulted” into the air.
She said: “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.”
Witness Darryl Whitpen described “a few seconds of total carnage with people scrabbling to get out of the way” of the horse.
Another bystander Jean Cramer said she watched helplessly as the horse charged towards Carolle, a former dinner lady.
She told the inquest: “She never had a chance.”
During the inquest horse cart expert John Parker, president of the British Driving Society, said the exhausted horse bolted because he feared it was being returned to work.
Mr Parker added: “He thought she was going to put the bridle on him again and be put back to work again.
“And, in my opinion, he had been in the bridle too long. He had been working too long.”
Mr Parker added that it was “in everybody’s rulebook never take the bridle off the horse.”
He added: “The moment the horse started running there was no voice, no reins and he panics and the faster he went the more the vehicle bounces.”
John Smithson, parks development manager for St Edmundsbury Borough Council, told the hearing there was no risk assessment for the horse and carriage rides at the park.
But he claimed he and Mr Dyre had completed a “dynamic” verbal risk assessment at the park and the written document was more of an “aide memoire”.
Mr Smithson said: “It would have been best practice to have the document in place on the day.
”Based on my knowledge of him I assumed he was a competent and responsible person.”
Mr Drye, however, claims he sent the information before June 19.
The inquest also heard Mr Drye was not acquainted with safety guidelines from the Department for Transport, the British Driving Society and the Highway Code regarding horse-drawn vehicles.
However, Mr Dye said he had referred to the bylaws of a council in the region which said a horse had to be at least three years old to be harnessed to a carriage.
According to a report for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) four horses were being operated at the fair, with three showing signs of distress.
Jurors also heard how five horse attendants had been expected to help operate rides at the country show.
Mr Drye had expected his step-daughter to help but when she couldn’t make it just four people were left on the attraction – himself, his wife Amanda, Sally Tyrrell and her mother Sue.
The inquest heard Miss Tyrrell had never been on a formal training course or assessment for driving a horse and carriage.
Mr Drye said: “I’m not 100 per cent about many things, but I never told her to take a bridle off a horse attached to a carriage.”
Lucas was put down in January this year after a worm infestation and the inquest heard vets found “no evidence of any clinical reason for him to have exhibited abnormal behaviour.”
Mrs Bullett, who lived with her husband Allan in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, was put on the blind register in 1992.
Throughout the week-long inquest Mr Drye has denied ever giving the instruction for the horse’s bridle to be removed.
A jury of 11 yesterday decided Carole Bullett’s death was accidental death.
Following the verdict Coroner Peter Dean said the devastating accident had been “impossible to predict”.
He vowed to write to the Department of Transport to request they look into a “loop hole” he claims exists in statutory regulation for horse and carriage drivers.
Coroner Dean said: “Where there are by laws in some areas for horses and carriages there is no formal statutory regulation in other areas where they operate close to the public so such as at a country fair.
“There is no statutory regulations for the training or testing of those who provide rides to the public.
“This situation was extreme and unusual and in John Parker’s view simply impossible to predict.
“The evidence heard showed there is a potential risk in what should be a safe and enjoyable activity if the activity is not regulated and managed properly.
“There is a loop hope in legal regulation in such activities.
“I will be writing to the Department of Transport to ask them to look at this area in the light of this awful tragedy.
“My intention to write should not be seen as to implying and liability for this event, but to draw attention to matters which could prevent tragedies occurring in the future.
“I offer my condolences to the family at this time.”
Hannah Rutterford, speaking on behalf of Mrs Bullett’s devastated family said they still believed the tragedy could have been prevented.
The Bulletts urged the Department of Transport to heed Coroner Dean’s recommendations and introduce legislation for people in charge of horses and carriages in public places.
The family also said they are considering legal action.
Mrs Rutterford said: “Nothing will bring back Carole and nothing can change what has happened.
“But the family do hope that this will not happen to anyone else.”
She added: “The family have handled this with absolute dignity.
“They are absolutely relieved that the inquest is finally over.
“It has been very distressing for them to hear the evidence, but particularly for them to hear of numerous failings, which if they had been considered properly before hand – with proper health and safety – the accident may never have happened.
“The family have been shocked by the extent of the failings in safety, a lack of training and a lack of knowledge of those who were in charge of the horse.
“Really basic health and safety has not been followed.
“That has been very distressing.
“The family are keen to await what the Health and Safety Executive will be doing and they will be taking legal advice about what actions they will take.
“Hopefully there will always be lessons to learn. The family are pleased that the coroner will be making recommendations for this to be looked at on a national level.
“Hopefully something like this will not happen again.
“Particularly where people are in charge of a horse and carriage in a public place the family would like them to have to take a test or some lessons before that can happen.”
The inquest heard seven or eight people were also injured by the bolting horse and carriage.
Duncan Drye, who owned the horse in question, refused to comment after the verdict.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said their investigation into the death was ongoing.