In June 2003 Mrs Heather Bell was thrown from her horse, and later died in hospital from head injuries.
The accident was caused when a low flying Chinook helicopter crossed the bridlepath in Lincolnshire on which Mrs Bell and two friends were riding. Low flying helicopters usually operate somewhere between ground level and 500ft in designated training and low flying areas.
Following the inquest into Mrs Bell's death the coroner for Louth and Spilsby wrote to Assistant Chief of the Air Staff making nine recommendations to ensure similar accidents did not occur in the future. Four of the recommendations are of particular interest to riders. They are:-
Following receipt of the letter the Directorate of Air Staff carried out a full review of low flying helicopters. As part of the review Trial Bright Eyes was conducted in conjunction with the British Horse Society designed to evaluate how the use of High Visibility (hi-viz) riding gear improves the range at which helicopter crews can see horse riders. As a result of this trial the MOD issued a leaflet and poster addressing safety issues for riders.
To keep members of the public informed about what low flying military helicopter activity is expected in their low flying area on a particular day the Ministry of Defence have set-up a free-phone advisory service. However this information may not be available in areas of high activity around helicopter training schools and main helicopter bases. To contact this service call:-
(Nov - Mar: MonFri 0800 to 1700)
(Apr - Oct: MonFri 0800 to 2000)
020 7218 6020