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'Two beautiful girls': findings delivered in equestrian deaths inquest

October 4, 2019 — 4.22 pm

The mother of one of two young horse riders who died in NSW equestrian competitions within weeks of each other said it has taken the deaths of "two beautiful girls" to implement change in the sport.

Caitlyn Fischer, 19, and Olivia Inglis, 17, were fatally crushed by their horses during separate riding events in 2016.

Speaking outside the NSW Coroners Court after the findings of the inquest into their deaths were delivered, Ms Fischer's mother,  Ailsa Carr, said the evidence in the inquiry had shown other countries such as the United Kingdom were more advanced in safety than in Australia.

"Prior to Olivia and Caitlyn’s deaths, I don’t know that Equestrian Australia [the sport's peak body] was as focused on safety and risk mitigation as what it could’ve been," Ms Carr said on Friday.

"I almost feel like we were apathetic here in Australia, and its taken the death of two beautiful girls to actually, hopefully move us to somewhere were we can look at making a real change in this world."

Ms Fischer's father, Mark Fischer, said the onus was now on Equestrian Australia to take on all of the recommendations handed down by Deputy State Coroner Derek Lee "as their platform" from which to boost safety standards.

"We don’t want any parent to ever have to go through what we went through. It's just a journey that was just nothing but painful," Mr Fischer said.

Ms Fischer died of head injuries after the horse she was riding fell over a jump at the Sydney International Horse Trials in Horsley Park on April 30, 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 on-site medical care given to both riders was a key focus of the proceedings. The court heard David Keys, qualified combat medical attendant, was the only medic on-site to help Olivia, and he had previously raised concerns with Paul Taylor, the owner of the medical contractor Health Services International (HSI), about staffing levels. Mr Keys said he also had concerns about the lack of appropriate equipment.

Mr Lee found that Mr Keys was employed in a first aid capacity rather than that of a paramedic, which is what HSI had indicated it would provide. He recommended that the Equestrian Australia handbook be updated to remove references to HSI as a service provider and that medical teams consist of at least two members with a minimum skill set, including a doctor, where available.

The court heard that the doctor who was assumed to be attending was not actually at the event and it was only by chance that another doctor, who was there to compete, heard the radio broadcast for help.

Mr Lee found that in the case of Ms Fischer, it took at least five minutes for medics to reach her, with her mother being the first on-scene.

Equestrian Australia said in a statement it was in the process of introducing a number of Mr Lee's recommendations, including minimum standards of skill sets and equipment for medical coverage, and the appointment of a national safety manager.

Me Lee also recommended frangible technology be made mandatory to allow jump fence components to fall when hit.

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