The parents of 17-year-old equestrian star Olivia Inglis, who died in a jumping accident, have spoken publicly for the first time about what they saw after their daughter’s fall.
Exactly what happened to Olivia, daughter of equine identities Arthur and Charlotte Inglis, is still not known almost two years after her death during a riding competition in the New South Wales Hunter Valley.
But Mr and Mrs Inglis, from the famous Australian bloodstock dynasty, have described what they witnessed at the NSW Eventing Championships at Scone on March 6, 2016
Their daughter Olivia was taking part in the competition which involves dressage, show jumping and cross-country with her horse partner of four years, Coriolanus.
Mr and Mrs Inglis, as well as their two younger daughters, Antoinette and Alexandra, who were also competing, were nearby when Olivia began the cross-country course.
Before Olivia rode away, Antoinette handed her a riding crop and wished her good luck. Mrs Inglis told Good Weekend she watched Olivia complete the first jumps of the course.
‘Then she went out of view,’ Mrs Inglis told the publication.
‘She should have come back into view for jump 10 and I was waiting with the marshal in the warm-up area when it came across the radio that there had been a fall at number eight. I knew it had to be her.’
A technical delegate at the marshaling area offered Mrs Inglis a lift to the number eight jump.
‘I had panic running through my body,’ Mrs Inglis told Good Weekend. ‘I called Arthur, who was waiting by the water jump for her to come through and he started running towards the fence.
‘I got there just before him and there she was, lying on the ground.
‘I looked at her and asked, “Is she dead?”‘
A paramedic told Mrs Inglis her daughter had a pulse. It was later revealed she had ruptured her pulmonary artery, which carries blood from the heart’s right ventricle to the lungs.
Coriolanus had suffered a fractured neck and later had to be euthanised but there was no evidence he had fallen on Olivia, who was unmarked. Exactly what happened remains unknown.
The fence judge had watched Olivia clear the first part of the jump and lowered her head to mark it off as completed when she heard a crash.
The cause of Olivia’s death will be investigated by the NSW Coroner later this year.
‘Our only consolation was that it would have been instantaneous,’ Mrs Inglis told Good Weekend.
‘”No blame.” That’s what Arthur said when he arrived at the accident site a few minutes after me,’ Mrs Inglis said. ‘…He simply said “no blame”, and that has become the philosophy we have tried to live with since the accident.’
In the days following Olivia’s death, thousands of equestrians around the world paid tribute to the young rider by sharing pictures of themselves and their horses using the hashtag #RideForOlivia.
The Inglis family, who live in the NSW Southern Highlands, estimates the #RideForOlivia campaign reached 30 million people.
Mrs Inglis, now 50, Mr Inglis, 61, Antoinette, 16 and Alexandra, 11, were joined by hundreds of mourners including racing luminaries such as trainer Gai Waterhouse at St Jude’s Anglican Church at Randwick for Olivia’s funeral.
Mr Inglis thanked a long list of people in his eulogy, including the organisers of the events in which Olivia competed.
‘No one should feel that in any way they contributed to her accident,’ Mr Inglis said. ‘You contributed to her pursuing her dream. Olivia would wish you all strength and solace at this time.’
Mr Inglis also thanked the paramedics who treated his daughter after her fatal jump.
‘Externally she was completely unmarked, including her gear,’ he said.
‘Thank you to the equestrian and equine world. The messages and gestures have been absolutely astonishing,’ he said.
‘Horse lovers the world over, no matter their discipline or level of involvement, seem to have so profoundly and accurately empathised with the driving force within Olivia.’
The Inglis family is one of the most highly-regarded dynasties in Australia’s horse breeding and racing industries.
Their company, William Inglis & Son, was established in 1867.