An inquest into the death of a woman, who died after a bale of hay fell on her at an equitation centre near Lancaster, has found that the unsafe stacking of the hay bales contributed to her death. Charlotte Conroy-Taylor died almost instantaneously after a bale of hay, thought to weigh around one ton, fell from a stack at the Beaumont Grange Stables onto her, causing fatal injuries. Mrs Conroy-Taylor, who was 45, was visiting the equestrian centre with her 13 year old daughter after returning from holiday.

In the narrative verdict, delivered by Preston and West Lancashire Coroner James Adeley at Preston Coroner’s Court, it was concluded that the method of stacking and de-stacking used by the owners of the centre was unsafe, and therefore formed a significant contributory factor to Mrs Conroy-Taylor’s death.

Whilst delivering the verdict on 13th September 2012, the Coroner also expressed severe concerns about the widespread lack of knowledge regarding safe, approved methods of stacking hay bales, as became apparent in the course of the inquest. Dr Adeley stated that he will write to the British Horse Society and the Pony Club to issue a warning about the dangers of badly constructed hay stacks; taking the opportunity to highlight the guidance that is available from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on the topic.

The family, who were represented by Jonathan Bridge at Farleys, paid tribute to Charlotte as ‘a loving mother, daughter, sister and friend’. Following the conclusion of the inquest, they stated that stated that they believe access to hay bales in equestrian centres needs to be regulated far more closely than is currently the case. They are strongly of the opinion that owners and staff at all equestrian centres should be made aware of the extreme dangers associated with allowing members of the public to access bale.

They also went on to say that they hoped Charlotte’s death would act as a warning to other users of stables and equestrian centres. “This was an accident waiting to happen and had it not been Charlotte who was the victim, it could have been a child or any other user of the equestrian centre”.

Jonathan Bridge, fatal accident solicitor at Farleys, commented:

“Mrs Conroy-Taylor’s death has highlighted not only the potential dangers at farms and equitation centres, but also the clear lack of regard to health and safety in some such establishments. Unfortunately Charlotte’s death is not an isolated case; we come across accidents on farms and at riding centres, which by their very nature are usually serious, far too often.

“Along with her family, I only hope that Mrs Conroy-Taylor’s tragic death can be used to promote safe practices, and thus prevent accidents of this nature, in the future”.

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