Belfast Telegraph

Family's sorrow at showjumper death

The father of a teenager killed in a riding accident choked back tears as he re-lived the horrifying moment his daughter was crushed to death by her own horse.

Heartbroken Edmund Wiley struggled to contain his emotions when he told an inquest into the death of his only daughter, Hannah, about the huge void in his family.

"It was never the same," he said.

Thirteen-year-old Hannah Jessica Wiley from Artigarvan, Co Tyrone, suffered multiple injuries, including a lacerated liver, after the horse she was riding somersaulted and rolled on top of her during a gymkhana event two years ago.

The Strabane Grammar School student had been competing at Eglington Equestrian Centre on the outskirts of Londonderry when the tragedy unfolded on August 17, 2012.

Coroner Jim Kitson, who was presiding over proceedings at Londonderry courthouse, heard how competitors and spectators had frantically tried to save the teenager.

Mr Wiley, who was also in the arena and watched in horror as the horse bounced twice on top of his daughter, described how he too had raced to her aid.

"I jumped the partition and ran straight to her.

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

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

"The critical stage would have been reached within a few minutes," said Dr Bentley.

The inquest also heard how an ambulance had taken longer than 20 minutes to arrive because the vehicle's Satnav could not find the scene.

"The Satnav didn't bring us to the right place," said paramedic Mervyn McHugh, who noted it was only due to "good luck" that they spotted a 4x4 jeep which pointed them in the right direction.

Kieran O'Brien, chairman of Eglington Equestrian Centre, said GPS co-ordinates had now been posted throughout the centre in case of a similar emergency.

The Coroner expressed regret that club member Leslie McFaul had disassembled the course before police or council expert experts had a chance to examine it. However, Mr Kitson said he was satisfied it had been done "innocently" and described Eglington Equestrian Centre as a "well run" organisation.

Earlier a constable from the Police Service of Northern Ireland 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."

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."

Meanwhile, In a statement read outside the court, a tearful Ethna Wiley described her daughter as an intelligent and fun loving girl who was sport mad.

Mrs Wiley also expressed frustration over the police handling of the case and the Derry City Council's alleged failure to investigate.

Mr Wiley said his family had been left devastated by their loss.

"Life is all changed now," he said. "It will never be the same again."

Mr Wiley also called for increased safety measures to prevent another tragedy at a showjumping event.

He said: "We would never like to see this happen again to any other child."

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