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Accidental death verdict after boy dies in riding accident on holiday

An inquest has returned a verdict of accidental death after an eight-year-old boy was killed in a riding accident while on holiday in the US in April.

Hugh Moss-Wilcox – one of triplets – was celebrating his birthday on holiday at the time of the riding accident. He was riding with his father and brother and sister near Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri when his mount shied, dislodging the saddle.

Hugh – known as ‘Ted’ – slipped down the side of the horse and was kicked in the head by the animal, according to his mother. He was taken to University Hospital in Missouri with serious head injuries, but died the day after the accident.

A post-mortem was carried out in the US – Ted was found to have died from the effects of a blunt-force trauma to the head.

The family is now taking legal action against the ranch that organised the rides.

Speaking at the inquest in Chelmsford, Essex, Ted’s parents Terrence Wilcox and Christine Moss from Wimborne in Dorset said that the family had seen the 20-minute horse rides advertised in a tourist brochure. Mrs Moss, a non-rider, watched her husband and her children while they rode and said that the rider leading the party fell off and this ‘spooked’ the other horses. Ted’s brother Jack had fallen straight off his mount after the incident, while his sister Amy managed to stay on her mount for a short while.

Mrs Moss told the inquest that she felt the ranch organising the rides had been “negligent” in teaching children who were first time riders.

“Nobody helped us check the helmets,” Mrs Moss told the inquest. “It was a bit looser than I would have liked, but it was the third one he tried on and we ended up doing it ourselves without any advice.”

Mrs Moss – a freelance social worker – also described her recollection of the moment her son was thrown off his mount:

“Ted was kicked while he was still on the horse. I didn't actually see him come off, but I'm pretty certain he was kicked as he was hanging. He had started to slide off. It was the back foot of the horse – the horse was determined to get him off.”

The inquest was told that authorities in the US had treated Ted’s death as “a tragic accident”.

The couple say they are taking legal action against the ranch not because of the financial compensation, but to make sure this does not happen to another child. They have also expressed concerns over the safety of riding establishments in the UK and are launching a safety campaign to help protect first-time riders. Mrs Moss said that she wanted children to have a licence – and for riding establishments to train them “up to a riding standard.”

She added that the family lived in a “horsy area” and she had heard tales of serious accidents children had had while out horse riding.

“It’s more dangerous than motorcycling,” she said.

The Essex assistant deputy coroner, Eleanor McGann, recorded a verdict of accidental death.

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Dated: 28/07/2011

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