A 64-year-old horse-rider suffered a fatal injury after a passing HGV spooked hunt horses she was exercising, an inquest heard.
Linda Sandercock from Trebursye, near Launceston, had ridden out with her friend Maria Lewis, on the morning of December 14 last year along a link road off the A30 from Stowford Cross to Hayne Cross.
In a statement read out at the inquest, presided over by senior coroner Ian Arrow at Plymouth Coroner’s Court, Mrs Lewis explained how the pair had ridden horses together over the past five years and described her friend as an “experienced horsewoman”.
On the day, Mrs Sandercock was wearing a bright pink fluorescent coat and a new riding helmet and both riders were on a horse each, but leading another, resulting in four horses on the road.
Mrs Lewis explained she was a groom and looked after horses and dogs for the Lamerton Hunt. She said the pair intended to exercise the horses on the roads around the Lamerton Hunt kennels.
She said it was a bright, cold and clear morning and the roads were dry and they road the horses at a walking pace, occasionally slow trotting.
They walked past Haynes Farm in single file on a two way road, with Mrs Lewis at the front and Mrs Sandercock at the rear. Mrs Lewis spotted a large lorry up ahead which she said “slowed right down” at spotting the horse riders. She said she raised her hand to thank the driver who continued past them slowly.
However, she said she “heard air-brakes from the lorry” and then heard horses hooves on the ground. One of the horses being led ran forwards onto a grass bank and as Mrs Sandercock tried to hold onto the rope, her own mount bucked and threw her off. The two horses cantered up the road and Mrs Lewis said that even her own horses “were spooked”.
The lorry continued up the road, the driver seemingly oblivious to what had happened.
Mrs Sandercock appeared to be in pain and very disorientated and Mrs Lewis called upon the help of farm workers from a nearby field. One chased after the spooked horses which were heading towards the A30 carriageway while the other call the emergency services.
Sadly, within a few minutes, Mrs Lewis said her friend was no longer sitting upright and “stopped breathing”. Efforts were made to resuscitate her and an air ambulance attended the scene, taking her to Derriford Hospital. She received treatment for a severe head injury but sadly died the following day.
A post mortem found Mrs Sandercock had suffered significant brain injuries and her cause of death was determined as traumatic acute subdural haemorrhage.
Police arrived at the scene and closed the main road between Sprytown Cross (Sprytown) and A30 (Stowford Cross, Broadwoodwidger), in both directions, for around three hours to investigate the incident.
As part of the inquiry the driver of the lorry was later traced and interviewed. He told police he recalled coming up the hill, seeing the horses and slowing down, which was recognised by one of the riders with a thank-you wave. He recalled passing the riders at a very slow speed before “carrying on as normal”. It was accepted that he had no knowledge that anything had happened and police determined the driver had committed no offences and there were no faults with his Mercedes articulated lorry.
The police investigation also examined Mrs Sandercock and found there was nothing wrong with her kit.
Lead investigator Sgt Nicholas Bloomfield told the inquest it was likely a noise emanated from the lorry at the moment it slowly passed Mrs Sandercock’s mounts which had “sadly led to the horses being spooked and caused them to ride off down the road, throwing [her] from her horse.”
He told the inquest there was “no suggestion the driver did anything wrong”.
Senior coroner Ian Arrow said the evidence presented led him to the conclusion that the death of Mrs Sandercock was “entirely accidental”. He passed on his condolences to Mrs Sandercock’s sister and brother who attended the hearing, noting how her death was “quite unusual and extremely sad”.