‘Head girl’ at Northamptonshire equestrian centre accidentally killed by one-tonne log

Kate Matthews
Kate Matthews
  • Accident happened when cross country jumps were being stacked
  • Inquest jury directed to record verdict of accidental death
  • Police investigator said Miss Matthews should not have been on the trailer

The head girl of a Northamptonshire equestrian centre died after being hit by a one-tonne jump as it rolled from a trailer.

Kate Matthews, aged 37, who was in charge of the stable yard at Foxhill Farm, Eydon, was helping to load cross country jumps - which consist of three metre-long logs - onto a flat-bed trailer last September when the accident happened.

Her boss, Lesley Smith, was using a forklift truck to stack the logs when one rolled towards Miss Matthews, who was directing the operation from the centre of the trailer.

Mrs Smith told an inquest jury at County Hall yesterday that she saw Miss Matthews vanish and shortly after found her lying on the ground behind the trailer, obviously suffering from serious injuries.

An air ambulance helicopter was summoned, but she died half-an-hour later at the scene.

Mrs Smith said: “{The moment she was hit] seemed to take an hour but also happen so quick.

“She went to stop it rolling and she shouldn’t have done, it goes against everything we ever said.”

County coroner Anne Pember directed the jury to return a verdict of accidental death, however collision investigation officer PC Brian Johnson said several things could have made the loading safer.

After attempting to reconstruct the accident with the same vehicles, PC Johnson concluded that the batons that separated the stacked jumps were short, meaning the forks of the forklift would have had to be tilted “at quite an angle” to release each log. This would mean the log would be rolled down the forks as it was stacked, he said, and a further push would be needed to position it.

PC Johnson added that the fact the trailer was being loaded downhill on a slight incline increased the chances that the log would keep rolling.

Above all, he said, Miss Matthews should not have been standing where she was.

Giving his opinion on what happened, he said: “It’s unbelieveable that anyone would have thought themselves capable of actually stopping that log.

“However, it is human nature that you react and try to help and that’s probably what happened. People sometimes try to stop rolling cars in the same way.”

PC Johnson said Foxhill Farm could have used chocks to stop the stacked jumps from moving, and Mrs Smith said they now use ‘feet’ attached to each log to fulfill the same purpose.

In a tribute to her daughter read out by Mrs Pember, Carole Matthews said horses were Miss Matthews’ lifelong passion and that Mrs Smith and the Foxhill team “were her second family”.

The statement added: “I want it known that I don’t blame anyone else for what happened. As far as i’m concerned, it was a complete accident that ended in tragedy.”