Safety fears raised after Bury horse-bolt tragedy

Questions were being raised today over the temperamental behaviour of animals used for a horse and carriage ride attraction following the tragic death of a woman at a country fair.

Carole Bullett, of Bury St Edmunds, was killed when a runaway horse bolted into crowds packed near a line of stalls along an avenue of trees at the annual event on the outskirts of the town.

The 57-year-old, who lived in Clark Walk, on the Howard Estate, was with thousands of other people at Nowton Park Country Fair, on Sunday.

She was taken by ambulance to Addenbrooke's Hospital, in Cambridge, but died on Monday morning.

However, yesterday it emerged that a horse pulling a carriage on a historic tour of Bury, a popular visitor attraction in the town, had reared and was momentarily out of control during an incident in May, near the entrance to the Abbey Gardens.

And there were more eye witnesses coming forward to describe in detail the horrors of the horse's rampage at Nowton.

Last month's incident took place as the horse and carriage was coming towards the Mustow Street turning on Angel Hill. The animal reared up just as a vehicle was coming round the corner.

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There were people in the carriage and one was seen to jump out and help control the horse to prevent it hitting the approaching car or injuring passengers in the carriage and its handler.

It is not know if it was Lucas, the four-year-old Breton believed to have been involved in the tragic turn of events at the weekend, but the ride was being operated by the Horse and Carriage Company, run by Duncan Drye, which was involved in Sunday's drama.

A spokeswoman for the firm said that Mr Drye did not want to comment further but St Edmundsbury Council, which licenses the rides and was in charge of the fair, said they had not been informed of May's incident but that the rides had now been 'suspended indefinitely' while an investigation is carried out.

It came to light following a call by a regular visitor to the town.

He was prompted to get in touch following news of the death and told of the incident which he captured on his mobile phone.

His visit, on Saturday, May 21, co-incided with the St Edmunds Real Beer & Food Festival which resulted in the town being packed with people.

He said: 'I remember it well as I'd just visited my dentist on Angel Hill and heard all this commotion which sounded like a horse making noises.

'The horse, which was bay coloured, bolted and veered towards an oncoming car. One of the two people sitting at the front of carriage jumped off and grabbed the horse's harness and, after a brief struggle, brought it under control and then led both it and the carriage up to the memorial at the top of Angel Hill and then round and back towards the Tourist Information office.

'I didn't think too much of it at the time, as nothing major happened – just a very startled horse and, undoubtedly, a terrified car driver.

'But following the events at the weekend, I now wonder whether this was the same horse?'

Meanwhile, Jeremy and Jenny Chadwick, of Sicklesmere Road, Bury, told how they were one of many people who rushed to the help of the injured woman on Sunday.

And they said how they were lucky not to have been injured after hearing shouts from people of the rampaging animal.

'We had to jump out of the way of it as it was only feet from us. If we had not heard the shouting we might have been hit,' said Mrs Chadwick.

'The horse appeared very frightened and was going at quite a speed. We saw it hit the lady and she was knocked into the air and fell back on the ground. It was dreadful.

'What made it worse was that it was along an avenue of trees and the horse could just not go anywhere else. There was a lot of people about and many got to the lady more quickly than we could and there appeared to be enough around to help her without us interfering,' she added.

A joint investigation has been launched by Suffolk Police, the Health and Safety Executive and the borough council as they try to find out what caused the tragedy.

Geoff Rivers, the chief executive at St Edmundsbury, said that the rides in the town, which are scheduled to take place every Wednesday and Saturday in the summer from 10.30am to 4pm, had been halted and 'suspended indefinitely'.

They began on April 9 and were planned to finish some time in September, when the number of tourists dropped.

'A review into the ride is being carried out and we will take the necessary measures once everything has been taken into account.'

And a spokeswoman for the authority added that May's incident had not been reported to them but said anyone with information about any incidents involving the horse and carriage should be reported to police on 01473 613500.

The rides were launched last July and operated on a half hourly basis taking people on a circular route taking in the Abbey Gate, to the Greene King Brewery and Theatre Royal, and back via the Athenaeum and Angel Hill.

At the time Mr Drye said: 'The carriage is a carefully restored waggonette. It is 60 years old and pulled by two experienced Comtois horses, which look like smaller Suffolk Punches. We love making a special occasion of our rides and the driver and groom will be able to tell our passengers stories about the route and about working with horses.'

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