Family alleges lack of safety measures at Punggol ranch

Family alleges lack of safety measures at Punggol ranch
PHOTO: Timothy Ng

The family of 73-year-old Lim Ah Boey, who died after being pinned under a horse for about 10 minutes at Gallop Stable's Punggol Ranch last Saturday, is raising questions about safety measures at the ranch.

According to Madam Lim's granddaughter, Ms Low Qin Qing, there was no safety briefing given before the ride, and staff seemed helpless as the incident unfolded.

The 28-year-old administration executive said the family of 10 had booked a chalet at the ranch on Saturday to celebrate her cousin's 21st birthday.

They received three coupons for free pony and horse rides, which she, Madam Lim and a family friend used.

When it was time to dismount, she said, her grandmother's horse made several unsuccessful attempts to approach a set of concrete steps.

"A helper came out and gave the horse (a few) pats on backside and neck to get it closer." The horse, she said, then became agitated.

Ms Low said the nine-year-old thoroughbred reared up, flung Madam Lim off, then appeared to lose its balance and fell on top of her.

Several people tried to pull the horse off her, but failed to do so.

"The horse eventually managed to stand up on its own, somehow, and my cousin did CPR for her with the help of a SCDF officer, who was helping her over the phone. But by then she was already turning purple, and her breathing was very shallow."

CPR refers to cardiopulmonary resuscitation. An ambulance arrived shortly after 6pm. Madam Lim was taken unconscious to Changi General Hospital, where she died.

Ms Low said: "After the horse got up, the staff weren't doing anything - they were just standing around. I thought they should be trained in CPR. And there was only one handler for each horse, so my mum had to help my grandma mount the horse."

She disputed Gallop Stable's account that Madam Lim lost her balance when the horse reared and dragged it down with her. "How can my grandma, at 73, bring down a horse?"

The police said investigations are ongoing. Operations at the ranch have been suspended.

Two former employees from Gallop Stable's Punggol ranch told The Straits Times that owners, Mr Shanker Rajagopal and his wife, Mrs Mani Shanker had not addressed issues, such as overcrowding, at the stable.

They said there are currently only two trainers and three stable hands for the approximately 60 horses and ponies at the ranch.

"We brought up the issues to the management many times, but they didn't do anything," said a former stable hand, who asked not to be named.

These are not the first allegations against Gallop Stables, which also has an at outlet in Pasir Ris and operates Horsecity in Turf Club Road.

In 2013, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) conducted an investigation into Horsecity after 70 ponies were allegedly housed in squalid conditions. AVA could not respond to queries by press time.

In a statement, Mrs Shanker denied the allegations by former employees and said records of visits to the vet show the horses and ponies to be in "good and acceptable condition".

She said all safety protocols were in place on Saturday, and that selected staff and instructors are CPR-trained, but that the victim's family decided to do the CPR.

Ms Low said the family has not been contacted by Gallop Stable management since the incident.

tiffanyt@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Nov 18, 2015.
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