Inquest into teenage eventers’ deaths hears medic ‘didn’t know how to use equipment’

The mother of 17-year-old eventer Olivia Inglis, who was killed in a rotational fall three years ago, has told an inquest how the medic at the event “struggled” to use his equipment.

Charlotte Inglis, a respected rider and trainer in Australia, recalled how she had been watching from the warm-up area of Scone Horse Trials, New South Wales, on 6 March 2016 when she heard the news of the accident over the radio, and had rushed to her daughter’s side.

On arriving, she asked medic David Keys if Olivia, who was unconscious, was alive and he replied that she had a faint pulse.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Mrs Inglis described the medic as “very, very, nervous” and “fiddling with his equipment”.

She said she and her husband Arthur, who joined her at the scene, were “unaware we had a paramedic who didn’t know how to use his equipment and was unlicensed in basic St John’s Ambulance”.

While they believed governing body Equestrian Australia used medics from NSW Ambulance, they had in fact stopped doing so years earlier.

“We didn’t know a private company was on site that had a very different level of standards for the people they employ,” Mrs Inglis said. “He was faced with a very dire situation that would have been very stressful for him.”

Some 20 minutes after the fall, a doctor who was spectating at the event also attended, but Olivia had ruptured her pulmonary artery and despite the arrival of a Westpac air ambulance, nothing more could be done.

Olivia’s nine-year-old thoroughbred Coriolanus also had to be put down following the accident, as he was found to have fractured his neck.

Mrs Inglis told the NSW coroner’s court how she had expressed concerns over fence eight, where Olivia fell, while walking the course at the two-star event.

She said the unusually slim rails and lack of ground line at fence 8b — an oxer that formed the second part of a combination approached downhill — had prompted her to discuss her worries with Olympic rider Shane Rose as they walked to the warm-up.

She had advised Olivia to pull Corialanus up if he did not jump the earlier obstacles well. While the horse had a brilliant cross-country record, with only one mistake in 28 starts — including 13 at one-star level —he was less reliable showjumping and had six rails down at the horse trials that day.

Mrs Inglis said there needed to be a change in the culture of eventing and riders and coaches should speak up if they had concerns about certain fences, the Hunter Valley News reported.

The death of the experienced teenage rider drew support from the equestrian community around the world, with many posting pictures of themselves competing, using the hashtag RideforOlivia.

Less than two months later, a second experienced teenage rider, 19-year-old Caitlyn Fischer, also died in a rotational fall while competing in the one-star at Sydney International Horse trials on 30 April.

Her horse Ralphie chipped in an extra stride on the approach to fence two of the cross-country, a table, and landed on Caitlyn, who suffered a major head injury.

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The Guardian reported the rider’s mother Ailsa, a trained nurse, had been standing 50m from the fence and raced over, but was aware immediately that her daughter had been killed.

The inquest into both deaths, which was opened by deputy state coroner Derek Lee on Monday (13 May) at the court at Lidcombe, is scheduled to run for two weeks.

A spokesman for Equestrian Australia told H&H the organisation’s “number one priority was the safety of its participants”.

“Equestrian Australia is fully co-operating with the coronial inquest into the tragic deaths of Caitlyn Fischer and Olivia Inglis, who are both greatly missed by our equestrian community every day,” he said.

“Equestrian Australia is respecting the coronial process and will not be commenting further on matters which are before the coroner.”

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