Verdict on drowned rider

  • A verdict of “accidental death” has been recorded in the case of 12-year-old rider Charlotte Saunders, who drowned trying to cross a river in Devon

    Greater Devon coroner Richard van Oppen recorded a verdict of accidental death in the case of 12-year-old Charlotte Saunders who drowned while trying to cross a swollen river on her pony Jake in October last year.

    Charlotte and her friend Jade Coaker, 15, were both acknowledged to be competent riders and regularly rode out unaccompanied together. They were out hacking when they attempted to cross the River Okement in Okehampton, Devon.

    Although it was not raining at the time of the incident, there had been heavy downpours earlier in the day and as a result the river was very swollen.

    According to witnesses, Charlotte and Jake attempted to cross the river first, but the river was much deeper than usual and began to sweep the pair downstream.

    Jade Coaker told the hearing that she and Charlotte regularly crossed the river, but on the day in question it was running a lot faster than usual. Jade also told the inquest that she shouted to Charlotte to move a safer part of the river.

    A passer-by who witnessed the accident fetched Charlotte’s father David from his nearby riding stables at Eastlake Farm, Belstone. A search was mounted, which included an RAF helicopter.

    Charlotte’s body was eventually discovered downstream, trapped against branches by the force of the water. The cause of death was drowning and after recording a verdict of accidental death, the coroner went onto say “Charlotte’s death was a tragedy.”

    Jake, a 12hh gelding, was found unhurt near the scene of the accident.

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