Northern Ireland man critically ill after being dragged for 500m by runaway horse
A Coleraine man is fighting for his life in hospital after being dragged along a road in the town on Saturday by a horse that had bolted.
The victim, named locally as Simon Fleming and aged in his 40s, suffered serious head injuries after being pulled for more than 500 metres.
"He was strapped to the horse, he had only just wrapped the harness around his hand when it just bolted," a neighbour said.
"He was dragged a considerable distance and the horse was kicking out as well."
It is understood he was working with the horse in a field near St John's Church on Somerset Drive when the animal was spooked by a barking dog.
Emergency crews attended the scene at Pates Lane at around 5.20pm before the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance was scrambled.
It had to land in the car park of Coleraine Health Centre on Castlerock Road.
Paramedics worked on the badly injured man for over an hour before he could be taken to the aircraft.
SDLP councillor Stephanie Quigley offered her sympathy to the victim and his family.
"I grew up in the same area as Simon and went to the same primary school, what happened to him this weekend is nothing short of horrendous," Ms Quigley said.
"My parents and I prayed for him after Sunday lunch and I would like to extend my thoughts and sincere sympathy to Simon and the rest of the family."
DUP councillor George Duddy said the Fleming family were well-known in the Killowen area for their love of horses. He expressed his shock and sorrow following the accident.
"They are a big family and they have kept horses and ponies for generations, but it was a big hobby for Simon," he said.
"It's very sad that this has happened and that he's ended up in this position.
"Nobody deserves this and I just hope he can pull through.
"It seems like it was just a terrible accident and my thoughts are with Simon and the wider family circle." This is the latest tragedy to hit the family.
Simon Fleming's older brother Paddy was stabbed to death in Coleraine in 2006.
The 40-year-old was at the centre of a major financial investigation at the time centred on a horse trading business, which was seized during a probe by the Assets Recovery Agency.
The agency took control of stables, 15 horses and an equestrian arena in December 2004.
Following this his other brother Damien was almost beaten to death by a loyalist gang in May 2009.
Catholic cross-community worker Kevin McDaid (49) was murdered in the same sectarian attack, which took place after a group of 40 men turned up at his family home near Somerset Drive to remove tricolours in the area.
Damien spent four weeks in a coma after intervening in the vicious attack to try and save the father-of-four.
Mr McDaid's wife was also assaulted, along with a pregnant woman.
Nine men were jailed in 2014 for a series of offences relating to the savage attack.