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‘She was one of us’: much-loved mare dies after Chinook helicopter flies low overhead

The owner of a much-loved mare who died after a Chinook helicopter flew “very low” over her field wants the RAF to explain why the aircraft was there.

Jeff and Linda Brown’s 21-year-old Arab G Elinor (Ellie) became impaled on a broken fence rail after the helicopter appeared without warning in Brookville, Norfolk, last Tuesday (6 November). She died almost instantly.

Mr Brown told H&H that in her panic, Ellie had previously skidded into the fence side-on, breaking the top two rails.

“The helicopter spooked her into a panic,” he said.

“It appeared suddenly over the treeline, so low there was no noise preceding it, and Ellie was just terrified. We’re near an RAF and a US air force base so she’s used to some low-flying jets, but not like this.

“She was tied up for the farriers, when she pulled back and bolted.”

Panicking, Ellie galloped towards the fence, skidding into and breaking it, then towards a neighbouring field where there was another horse.

“She bolted back down the paddock and where she’d broken the rail, there was a shard of 2×4 rail sticking out,” Mr Brown said. “She ran on to it.

“It went into her chest and heart about 15 inches deep. My wife was running towards her but my daughter was closer and she sent my wife away.

“Ellie collapsed off the fence and went straight down; she was dead within 10 to 15 seconds, almost before she hit the floor.”

Mr Brown has reported the incident to the RAF’s low-flying aircraft complaints unit, which is investigating.

“I think they should be held responsible in some way,” he said. “But that won’t bring Ellie back.

“She was everything to my wife; we’d had her 15 years and they’d been Endurance GB members, competing up and down the country including the Golden Horseshoe, and my wife still rode her regularly; they were entered for a 40km ride next week.

“She was such a good mare; we’re by a byway, and everyone who walked up there knew her as she’d come and see them, and they’d feed her carrots.

“She was very friendly and personable, but she was an Arab mare, and full of spirit. If she’d been a cob or a New Forest pony, it might not have happened, but then she wouldn’t have been Ellie.

“She was just one of us, a family member. She was well respected, and much, much loved.”

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An RAF spokesman said: “The RAF has been made aware of an incident involving the death of a horse in Norfolk. The Low flying Complaints Unit is carrying out an investigation and therefore, it would be inappropriate to offer comment whilst the investigation is ongoing.”

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