Horse and carriage horror brings tragedy to Nowton Park Country Fair

Emergency services at Nowton Park Country Fair, after a horse and cart injured several people. The cart is sealed off by police.
Emergency services at Nowton Park Country Fair, after a horse and cart injured several people. The cart is sealed off by police.
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A GRANDMOTHER died after being trampled by a runaway horse and carriage on a family day out.

Carole Bullett, 57, from Clark Walk, Bury St Edmunds, was taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, from the Nowton Park Country Fair on Sunday with serious injuries and died on Monday. At least seven others were treated and discharged at West Suffolk Hospital.

Witnesses said the horse bolted down the park’s lime tree avenue, which was lined with stalls and crowded with people. All said they did not hear the horse above background noise until it was too late, so those watching the M.A.D mountain bike team, with backs to the avenue, had little warning.

Glenda Cole, from Bury St Edmunds, who had been taking pictures of the bike demonstration, said: “I noticed the stunned look on one of the riders’ faces and turned and saw all these people flying forwards and the horse and cart tipping. It was on its knees. I didn’t hear it coming. It was quite shocking.

Karen Long, an accident and emergency nurse who was manning a stall for the Bury Starlets baton twirlers, said: “I didn’t hear it until it was on top of us. I heard screams and turned round and saw this horse coming towards us.”

It veered away but struck Mrs Bullett. Mrs Long went to help Mrs Bullett while Starlets’ parents tended her husband Alan, daughter and grandson. She added: “I feel sorry for her family. It should have been a lovely family day but what happened has changed their lives.”

Ruth Brighton and her mother Carol Ortega, who run the Bury based Fairy Cahoots card and gift business, saw the carriage hurtle past their stall.

Mrs Ortega said: “The horse hit a man and knocked him down and he was dragged with the carriage. The horse went down on his knees – I’m sure he was trying to stop. It was horrendous. It was an awful end to a lovely day.”

As the horse stopped, witnesses saw an angry man from the crowd hit it. “That broke my heart,” Mrs Ortega said. “I told him to leave it alone.”

The horse was a four-year-old Breton called Lucas who was rescued from a French meat market by Duncan Drye’s Horse and Carriage Company, which operates carriage rides round Bury. The horses were kept at Nowton Park, though their paddocks were empty on Monday. They stepped in when the fair’s usual Suffolk Punch rides could not attend.

A statement issued on Mr Drye’s behalf by St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which organised the event, said: “It’s difficult to comprehend that such a terrible result should come from this event and our deepest sympathies are with the family. We are co-operating fully with the investigation which will try to establish exactly what happened.”

Because the accident happened at a council-run event on council property, the investigation is by the Health and Safety Executive. Its principal inspector, Eddie Scoggins, said: “Information from members of the public who attended the Nowton Park Country Fair is a vital part of our inquiry into this tragic incident. We would encourage people who saw what happened to come forward by ringing Suffolk Police in the first instance on 01473 613500. We have taken note of the photograph showing the horse without a bridle and this will be part of our investigation.”

This was the first serious accident at the annual country fair, which has been organised by St Edmundsbury Borough Council for 22 years.

A greyhound at the Retired Greyhound Trust stand had its side gashed by the carriage. Ann Raymond from the trust said it was treated immediately by a vet from the Eastgate Surgery’s nearby stand before having stitches at its own vets and is recovering.

Nicki Newman’s son Noah escaped injury by seconds only because she decided to break her usual routine for putting him in the car.

But it was a frightening end to what had begun as a fun family day out for Nicki, husband Dom and one year old Noah from Worcester Road, Moreton Hall.

“I normally leave him in his buggy while I put the bags in,” she said. “But he’d been in there all day so I took him out first.

“Somebody shouted ‘watch out’ and the horse came from where they were parked. It came running towards us and the carriage took the pushchair with it.

“It wasn’t running towards the crowd at first, but it turned. I was really upset afterwards because it kept running through my mind.”

Police and paramedics have visited Air Cadets to thank them for their help after the accident.

The 19 cadets from 301 Bury St Edmunds and 863 Thurston Squadrons were at the park. They screened Mrs Bullett, assisted in moving people away from casualties and supported the emergency services. In a letter of thanks, Andy Bates, the ambulance service’s West Suffolk duty operations manager, wrote that by screening Mrs Bullett, the cadets had given her privacy and paramedics the space to work without distraction. He added: “The fact that your cadets were willing to help and led so well is testament to your unit in general and specifically leadership on the day.”