Leeds Graduate killed in African horse trek tragedy

Gemma Wilson
Gemma Wilson
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A GRADUATE from Leeds who died when she was thrown from a horse in Africa had not been given a helmet or tuition by guides, an inquest heard.

Gemma Wilson was on a dream holiday with her fiance but it ended in tragedy when the horse she was riding bolted, throwing her from the saddle.

Miss Wilson ended up with one foot trapped in a stirrup, and suffered head injuries after being dragged along.

The 24-year-old and fiance James Langton were part of a group trek through remote mountains in Lesotho, southern Africa, on November 4 , 2009.

The court heard how there had been a number of health and safety lapses by the tour guides at the lodge.

The inquest heard it took four hours for a helicopter ambulance to arrive because no one had a mobile phone.

Mr Langton told the inquest: “This was a trip aimed at novice riders and I can say with 100 per cent certainty that we were not given any instructions on how to ride the horse.

“The people on the ground weren’t trained. Why would they put us in that position?”

Martin Shapter, who was commercial director of Imaginative Travel in 2009, which has since become Peak Adventure, said that the firm no longer used the guides involved.

Deputy Coroner Heidi Connor recorded a narrative verdict, saying: “I am satisfied that even if Gemma was wearing a helmet, the outcome would have been the same.

“But I must consider that in other situations this could be the difference between life and death.”

Speaking afterwards, Gemma’s father Stuart Wilson, 52, who lives in Scotland, said he did not accept the verdict or the findings of the inquest.

“I was looking for closure today, but that doesn’t appear to be the case,” he said.

“I plan to sit down and discuss this with my family and I am looking to appeal this decision.

“Gemma was exceptional and was going to be successful.

“Her death was devastating and James and the whole family have been traumatised by this.”

Mr Wilson added: “I wouldn’t stop my children from going on these adventure treks, but I want to ensure that the number one priority of these companies is the safety of their customers.”

Tony Burdin, chief executive of Sheffield Mutual Friendly Society

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