The starting vehicle’s boom failed to retract and it struck spectators as it drove off at the beginning of the race. (ABC News)
A two-year-old girl is fighting for life in hospital after a freak harness racing accident at the Redcliffe Paceway north of Brisbane last night.
- The family were watching a harness race when the metal boom gates failed to retract
- As the starting vehicle drove off, one of the gates struck four people, critically injuring a toddler
- The track has been declared a crime scene and health and safety officers are investigating
The girl’s parents and her one-year-old brother were also injured when one of the metal boom gates that extend from either side of a pace vehicle did not retract as it drove off at the start of a race, hitting the family as they watched.
A harness racing industry source told the ABC the father was a harness racing driver, and the family had been in a stabling area not usually frequented by spectators or members of the public.
Sergeant Greg Price said it was a very distressing scene for everyone involved.
“It was witnessed by numerous people here and they’re all being dealt with,” Sergeant Price said.
“It’s a tragedy when you see the injuries to a young child, two-and-a-half years old.
“It’s a tragedy to the family, to the emergency services who attended here, also to the racing community that were all here.”
Most harness races start with the horses lined up behind a motorised, hinged gate mounted on a motor vehicle, which leads them to the starting line.
The wings of the gate are then folded up as the vehicle accelerates away from the horses.
The family from Kensington Grove in the Lockyer Valley remain in hospital this morning, with the two-year-old girl being treated for critical facial and abdominal injuries.
Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) said the father was taken to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital in a serious but stable condition with head injuries.
James Thompson from QAS said two critical care paramedics and the high acuity response team were all at the scene.
“It was fairly chaotic at first but we soon managed the scene quite professionally,” he said.
The race meet was immediately called off after the incident, just before the third race at about 7pm.
Sergeant Greg Price said those in the racing community were being offered counselling, as well as the driver involved in the malfunction.
“He’s very stressed over the incident at the moment … he’s being cared for by family members and also members of the racing community here,” he said.
The Redcliffe Harness Racing Club posted to its page on Facebook saying: “Our thoughts and love [are] with those injured in the mobile incident.”
“Thanks to everyone who helped so quickly,” the post said.
Police said the track is no longer a crime scene, but they along with workplace health and safety officers are investigating.
The family was watching a harness racing event at Redcliffe Paceway. (Facebook: Redcliffe Harness Racing Club)