Slip by pony is blamed for two tourists' deaths at beauty spot
Inquest jury recommends special Gap of Dunloe safety barrier be installed
A pony's metal-shod left front hoof is believed to have slipped on a steep descent in the Gap of Dunloe resulting in the animal, a trap and two US tourists being thrown into a ravine.
The revelation came as a Killarney coroner's inquest heard the US tourists were killed on April 9, 2018, when they fell more than five metres onto rocks with the trap then tumbling down on top of them.
The heartbroken family of Rosalyn Joy Few (64) and Normand Larose (62), who died on only the second day of a dream Irish holiday, said they do not want any other family to suffer their nightmare.
The US family did not attend the inquest but were represented by a solicitor.
The Kerry trap operator, Dan Casey, who managed to jump off the trap before it hit the ravine, extended his deepest condolences.
Through his solicitor, Mr Casey said: "There is not a day that [I] do not think about and pray for the deceased."
In direct evidence, Mr Casey said he had no idea what caused the tragedy. "Suddenly and without warning, my horse 'Johnny' bolted. He slipped down an embankment on the left-hand side."
Mr Casey, a trap operator for 37 years, said his pony had worked the Gap of Dunloe route in 2017. The accident occurred on only the fourth day of the season.
"I don't recall the horse slipping anywhere on the road, to be honest," he added.
Mr Casey said the pony had special pins on his shoes for extra grip.
Seconds after the accident, Ms Few's daughter Tonya, her son-in-law Bill Walter, and her two grandchildren Gavin and Catelyn came upon the horrific accident scene.
One trap operator, Eugene Tagney, wept as he tried to comfort the grief-stricken US tourists with Tonya asking: "Is that my mother down there?"
Mr Walter scrambled down into the ravine in a desperate bid to help - having to lift the trap which had pinned both bodies to the rocks.
Both had suffered catastrophic head injuries and were pronounced dead at the scene.
Kerry Coroner Aisling Quilter recorded verdicts of accidental death.
The inquest jury issued a single recommendation that a special barrier now be erected at the accident scene.
Garda PSV Inspector James O'Brien said that, had the accident occurred just a few metres on, the couple would have been catapulted onto grass rather than rocks.
Mr O'Brien said the trap had been recently serviced, it had no mechanical defects and the pony was shod just one month beforehand.
Four witnesses, including Tonya and Mr Walter, said they felt the pony and trap had been travelling fast during an earlier part of the trek.
"I asked: 'Why was Joy and Normand's cart going so fast? They were missing all the scenery," Tonya said.
However, the three trap operators insisted the trek had been undertaken at normal pace.
Mr O'Brien said that, given the treacherous nature of the descent, had the pony and trap been going too fast it would have overturned much farther up the road.
"There is no question but that the pony was at walking pace," he said. "I believe the pony's left front shoe lost traction with the road.
"He would have reacted and tried to pull back. But the momentum of the tub (trap) and the three people pushed him over the edge."
There was no safety barrier, no warning signs and the traps are not fitted with brakes.