The mother of a teenage girl killed during an elite equestrian event in NSW expressed concerns about the course on the morning of her daughter's death, including about the obstacle her daughter later died jumping.
An inquest opened on Monday to examine the deaths of Olivia Inglis, 17, and Caitlyn Fischer, 19, two "clever and vibrant" young women who were fatally crushed by their horses during separate riding competitions in 2016.
Olivia died on March 6, 2016, after her horse missed his stride and hit a jump two minutes into the cross-country event at the Scone Horse Trials in the Upper Hunter region.
The horse, Coriolanus, fell onto Olivia and left her with major chest injuries. Her parents, who were at the event, heard there had been a fall and rushed to her side.
She was unable to be revived, despite first aid being administered and paramedics being brought to the scene in a Westpac helicopter. The inquest heard she was not conscious after the fall and did not suffer. Her horse was put down after sustaining a fractured neck.
About seven weeks later, on April 30, Caitlyn died shortly into her cross-country run at the Sydney International Horse Trials when her horse's knees hit the second jump. The horse then fell on her, causing head injuries and killing her instantly.
Caitlyn's mother Ailsa Carr, a registered nurse who has worked in intensive care, sprinted onto the course and was the first to reach her daughter's side. She saw Caitlyn had died and called Caitlyn's father to tell him, the inquest heard.
Riding coach Christine Bates was the second person to reach Caitlyn. She said she saw Caitlyn's mother distraught and speaking into a phone, saying, "She's dead, she's dead, my girl's gone."
The two-week inquest, held at the Coroners Court in Sydney, will examine nine issues, including whether safety procedures at NSW equestrian events are adequate and whether physical aspects of the courses contributed to the deaths of Olivia and Caitlyn.
Counsel assisting, Peggy Dwyer, said there was no doubt that eventing – a three-pronged sport comprising dressage, show jumping and cross-country – was a "challenging and dangerous sport", but one of the aims of the inquest would be to minimise the risk of injury.
Dr Dwyer said there has already been "significant change introduced to the sport in NSW", including the use of collapsible pins in some jumps so they effectively fold in and collapse if they are hit by a horse. The sport's governing body, Equestrian Australia, has also employed a part-time safety officer.
Dr Dwyer said both Caitlyn and Olivia were "beautiful young women" who were "clever and vibrant" and had enormous potential intellectually and personally. They were highly experienced at eventing and competed at an elite level.
The inquest is expected to hear that Olivia's mother, Charlotte Inglis, walked the cross-country course with her daughter on the morning of her fall, and had concerns about "a number of jumps" including a combination jump, 8A and 8B, which had a downward approach.
She was so worried she spoke to another rider, Olympic champion Shane Rose. Olivia went ahead with her ride, and died after her horse fell on jump 8B.
The inquest heard Caitlyn's final ride was delayed by 10 minutes after another rider fell on the course. Caitlyn's accident, 210 metres from the start box, was captured on video. It will not be made public out of respect for her family.
Deputy State Coroner Derek Lee extended his personal condolences to the girls' families and friends, who were present in court.
In a statement read out to the inquest, Equestrian Australia chief executive Lucy Warhurst said the organisation was "deeply sorry for the loss" of the two young women and sought to provide the safest possible environment for its riders.
Article courtesy of Nine and The Sydney Morning Herald