Coroner pays tribute to jockey's family's campaign for air medical services

THE grieving mother of jockey Reece Potter, who was tragically killed in a race fall at Tottenham three years ago, has never set out to blame anyone for her son’s death.

Instead, a coroner’s court heard on Thursday Vicki Williams successfully campaigned for changes to emergency air services so that no one ever had to suffer the agony experienced by her family.

Mr Potter, 23, received fatal head injuries when his horse Half Handy fell while leading the last race on the program at the Tottenham Picnic Races of March 12, 2011.

Veterinarian Dr Charles Tilley later diagnosed the horse as having suffered a fractured pelvis.

At the time of the accident, the emergency helicopter service based in Orange was not available after 6pm.

This resulted in Mr Potter being transported by road to Dubbo Hospital and later air-lifted by the Royal Flying Doctor Service to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital that evening.

Family members made the heart-breaking decision to switch off his life-support two days later.

“I have great respect for the way you have led this campaign for changes to the air services in country NSW"

As a result of campaigning led by Mrs Williams and councils throughout the region, 32,000 people petitioned the state government and the service now operates 24 hours.

After delivering his findings, Deputy State Coroner Hugh Dillon congratulated the family in the way they had conducted themselves throughout the inquest.

“I have great respect for the way you have led this campaign for changes to the air services in country NSW,” he said.

“I am so sorry you have lost Reece and from what I have heard throughout this inquest, I wish I’d known him.”

Mrs Williams said people in country and regional areas deserved access to emergency services to the same extent as those living in the city.

Mr Dillon levelled no blame and made no recommendations in relation to the death.

The coroner’s official finding was that Mr Potter died at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown, on March 14, 2011, as a result of blunt force head injuries sustained when he was thrown from his horse during a race at the Tottenham Picnic Races on March 12, 2011.

OUR SAY: NO GUARANTEES, BUT MEDICAL HELICOPTER SHOULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Evidence was also given by Dr Ron Manning, Director of the Statewide Services Division of the Ambulance Service of NSW, responsible for emergency air retrieval services.

Dr Manning said the call for the emergency helicopter was received at 5.17pm at Ambulance Western Control.

He said because the service only operated 8am to 6pm and the pilot had already flown a medical transfer that day from Orange to Sydney, he had insufficient flying hours left to legally undertake the requested flight.

Asked by the Coroner if he believed the immediate availability of an air ambulance would have made any difference, Dr Manning replied the victim was in a coma, with fixed dilated pupils synonymous with brain death.

“They were certainly serious injuries and it is difficult to say that if the helicopter had been available it would have improved the condition of the victim,” he said.

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