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Bury St Edmunds: Horse and carriage rides had ‘basic staffing levels,’ inquest into death of Carole Bullett hears

09:10 10 October 2012

The scene at Nowton Park in Bury St Edmunds after an incident involving a horse and carriage at the annual country fair

The scene at Nowton Park in Bury St Edmunds after an incident involving a horse and carriage at the annual country fair


A FORMER horse and carriage rides operator has revealed a fifth person was expected to be helping with the attraction at a country show the day a woman was fatally injured by one of his horses.

Carole Bullett, 57, of Clark Walk, Bury St Edmunds, died from serious chest injuries at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge shortly after being knocked down at the Nowton Park Country Fair in June last year.

Duncan Drye, who ran the horse and carriage rides which the horse, Lucas, was involved with, gave evidence yesterday at the inquest into Mrs Bullett’s death.

He said he had expected his step-daughter to help out, but she had a commitment which left four people on the attraction: himself, his wife Amanda, Sally Tyrrell and her mother Sue.

He said: “I would not have gone beyond one person per horse. I was on the basic level of staffing. I would’ve liked to have had one more person. I would’ve like to have had more.”

The inquest heard how when Mr Drye operated the rides at the Greene King food and drink festival in May last year - which is also visited by thousands of people - he had six members of staff.

Mr Drye, who had been driving horses since the age of eight, was asked by St Edmundsbury Borough Council to run the rides at the country fair after the authority’s usual operator, Nigel Oakley, of Rede Hall Farm, was unavailable.

The inquest heard how Mr Drye prepared a health and safety statement for John Smithson, from the borough council, covering areas such as dangers to staff, the general public and passengers.

In retrospect, Mr Drye said a bigger safety gap between the rides and the stalls areas “would have been useful”.

The inquest heard how a risk assessment document had been prepared, which was signed by Mr Smithson, but Mr Drye said he did not recognise the form, adding he had no expertise in that area.

It revealed a score of six for carriage rides which means additional control measures were identified as being required, but Mr Drye, who used to run horse and carriage rides in Bury town centre, said he was “never” informed of this.

The inquest also heard that he was not acquainted with guidelines by the Department for Transport, the British Driving Society and the Highway Code regarding horse-drawn vehicles.

But he said he did refer 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. French records show Lucas - which was a Breton horse - would have been four in about June last year.

The inquest also heard that Mr Drye and Sally Tyrrell, who worked for him, disagreed over whether he instructed her to remove the bridle from Lucas.

He said: “I’m not 100% about many things, but I never told her to take a bridle off a horse attached to a carriage.”

Miss Tyrrell, who Mr Drye deemed to be an experienced driver, had been the driver for the horse and carriage rides with Lucas at the Nowton Park event.

However she had told the inquest she had never been on a formal training course or assessment for driving a horse and carriage.

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