Inquest into girl's fatal horse fall

Published Wednesday, 27 August 2014
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A Coroner has told an inquest that the exact circumstances of a horse-riding accident that killed a young Co Tyrone girl will never be known.

Thirteen-year-old Hannah Wiley from Artigarvan was involved in a fatal accident at a show jumping event at Eglinton Equestrian Centre in Co Londonderry two years ago.

Just moments before the accident, Hannah's father Edmund had spoken to her to tell her she was jumping well.

On Tuesday, he attended the inquest into his daughter's death, hoping to find out how the accident he witnessed could have happened.

"I jumped the partition and ran straight to her," he said in a statement.

"As I approached the fence, I couldn't see Hannah. She was under the pony. The pony was on its side, wrestling."

Eyewitnesses told the court Hannah had been thrown from the horse, named Jobbers, after it clipped the top of an 80cm jump.

The timber pole became lodged between all four of the horse's legs preventing the animal from getting to its feet.

Hannah had been wearing safety equipment including a riding helmet and chest protector at the time of the accident but, according to Deputy State Pathologist Dr Alistair Bentley the severity of her injuries was such that she could not have survived.

Kieran O'Brien, chairman of Eglington Equestrian Centre, said GPS co-ordinates had now been posted throughout the centre, after paramedics took longer than 20 minutes to arrive after the vehicle's Satnav brought them to the wrong place.

Following Hannah's death, the scene was not preserved and police didn't visit until six days later.

A constable told the court the scene was not maintained because it was not deemed suspicious.

"It was quite clear to police at that stage. It was quite obvious how it (Hannah's death) had happened," said the officer, who declined to be named for security reasons.

The Coroner Mr Jim Kitson expressed regret that club member Leslie McFaul had disassembled the course before police or council expert experts had a chance to examine it.

However, he said he was satisfied it had been done "innocently" and described Eglinton Equestrian Centre as a "well run" organisation.

In his conclusion, the Coroner said the exact circumstances which caused Hannah's death could never be known.

Mr Kitson said: "It is quite clear that Hannah sustained devastating abdominal and chest injuries due to the crushing effect of her pony falling and rolling."

The Coroner continued: "She was a young girl who was very into the sport and was doing something which she clearly loved to do on the night that this horrific combination of circumstances led to the loss of her young life."

The lack of conclusion has left the Wiley family angry.

Following the inquest, Edmund said: "I didn't get the right answers I was looking for, never got the right answers because the jumps were taken down that morning and there was no investigation done.

"We don't want to see this happen again to any other child."

During proceedings, Hannah' Mum Ethna clutched her riding hat. She said they feel let down by investigations into Hannah's death.

"She was just a child, our child but on 17 August that ended, we are law abiding people, we needed the help of the PSNI and we feel they let us down by lack of investigation."

The family hope the inquest will mean that similar deaths will be handled differently.

© UTV News
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