THE cause of death of a woman who was “full of life” and fell off her horse last year was accidental, an inquest heard.
At an inquest held in Ruthin yesterday, Nicola Jones, assistant coroner for North Wales East and Central, said Stephanie Morrissey suffered head injuries after she “slid” off her horse on Lester Lane, Broughton, on December 4.
The 38-year-old from King’s Road, Little Sutton, kept her horse Troy at a stable in Broad Oak Farm in Lester Lane.
Two witnesses who saw the mother-of-two riding the horse before she fell attended the inquest.
Kevin Conyers was driving from his home in Higher Kinnerton when he “saw a lady riding a horse and the horse was travelling at quite a high speed”.
Mr Conyers was concerned about what he had seen and thought there was a problem, so he followed her at a distance.
He said: “Half way down the road the horse stopped [...] when he set off again Mrs Morrissey fell off.
“She fell off the side straight onto the road.”
When Mr Conyers went over to check on Mrs Morrissey she was still breathing and he put her in the recovery position until the ambulance arrived.
He said initially the horse did not appear out of control but it started moving onto the other side of the road and it appeared Mrs Morrissey had “lost control”.
The horse then stopped to look through a gap in the hedge, according to Mr Conyers, who said the animal then set off again at a “walking pace” but Mrs Morrissey “slipped” off the horse.
Alex Jones also witnessed the incident as he was driving to work at a residential home nearby where he is a chef, and he called for an ambulance.
He confirmed the rider appeared “unconscious” before she “slipped” off.
Mr Jones had been driving facing Mrs Morrissey on her horse before it turned around as he came closer.
Following the incident she was taken to the Countess of Chester Hospital which confirmed she had gone into cardiac arrest and it was “impossible to get her back” when she died in the hospital.
Dr Muhammad Aslam, senior consultant pathologist at Glan Clwyd Hospital, conducted a post-mortem examination which revealed she had a fractured skull following the fall and the toxicology reports showed Mrs Morrissey, a dog sitter by occupation, had 0.2 milligrams of venlafaxine, an anti-depressant she had been prescribed, which is around one-and-a-half times the “therapeutic amount”, according to the coroner.
Dr Aslam confirmed patients taking this medication could suffer side effects such as drowsiness, lack of strength and the drug could cause convulsions.
He said the medical cause of death was a fatal head injury.
Fiona Knowles-Holland, of Penyffordd, a close friend of Mrs Morrissey who had known her for four or five years, said she had never shown any such side effects.
Ms Knowles-Holland added: “Steph was advised not to go out on her own [riding her horse]. She had only had Troy for six weeks.
“He had been spooked in the manege at the yard previously with a more experienced rider.
“Steph had also come off the horse before. She told me once she had no sense of fear and no sense of danger.
“She shouldn’t have gone out on her own as an inexperienced rider.”
Ms Knowles-Holland confirmed Mrs Morrissey was “full of life” and a fearless character.
Addressing Mr Jones, the assistant coroner said: “You and Mr Conyers have gone beyond what was expected of motorists. You clearly knew this lady was in danger.
“You did everything you could to protect her. Already there were fatal head injuries that were not survivable.”
Mrs Jones added: “This was a horse who did get spooked.
“He was untried and untested and shouldn’t have been on that road with Mrs Morrissey on their own.
“At some point after the horse started again [set off after he stopped] she became unconscious but we do not know why.
“It could have been the side effects [of her medication] came into play.
“It was clear she was unconscious when she fell.”
She recorded the death as an accident.