'I thought there’s no way out of this one’: 70yo Canterbury harness driver recalls horror crash

Veteran harness racing trainer-driver Kevin Townley is making a patient recovery from surgery...
Veteran harness racing trainer-driver Kevin Townley is making a patient recovery from surgery following a serious crash during a race at Rangiora. Photo: Geoff Sloan
It’s customary to get straight back in the saddle after a setback, although veteran harness driver-trainer Kevin Townley will take time to consider if and when it is wise to climb into a sulky after his latest accident.

A 70-year-old requiring a hip replacement is not unusual, but the background to Townley’s procedure in Christchurch Hospital sets the West Melton-based horseman apart.

“I was going up in the air and the next thing I remember was all these faces staring down at me,” Townley recalled when revisiting his crash with Murano at Rangiora on April 18.

“I’ve seen the replay, I suppose I was two or three metres in the air, then I got run over. It [the footage] doesn’t show that.”

The stewards’ report states Gift Card fell and checked Murano plus Tom Brady. Townley was one of three drivers dislodged by the incident. Murano, which avoided injury, galloped on before being corralled.

“[Murano] fell in a split second – apparently it stood on a shoe. You think very fast on the track and in a split second I thought: ‘There’s no way out of this one’,” Townley said.

The serious crash during a race at Rangiora. Photo: Trackside
The serious crash during a race at Rangiora. Photo: Trackside
He was treated at the track and transported to Christchurch Hospital with hip, rib and lung damage. He was released last Friday to continue his rehabilitation with wife Margaret.

“My left hip was smashed up pretty bad so I got a total hip replacement but there’s still a fracture or two to heal. Hopefully they’re healing all right with the new apparatus on board,” he said.

Townley already has a plate and several screws in his shoulder following an accident during track work. After a crash during a trial at Motukarara, a horse trod on his hand, breaking all the bones.

He was also kicked in the head by a horse before a race in Westport in 2017, with a helmet fortunately bearing the brunt of the blow.

Townley shrugged off those incidents – and several others through the years – reasoning: “It can be a bit of a rough industry, you expect things like that. I’ve bounced back pretty good but there must be an age where you don’t.”

That might be approaching, with Townley conceding the Rangiora spill was the worst he has experienced.

“It’s not great timing to be fair – at 70 you don’t bounce back quite as well either. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to do in the future. That will work itself out I guess.”

Townley conceded the Rangiora spill was the worst he has experienced. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Townley conceded the Rangiora spill was the worst he has experienced. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Townley returned to his stable on Tuesday to check on his small team.

“We’ll see how the next couple of months go and how I get around. I’ve got to lift my leg into the sulky don’t I,” he said.

The surgical advice was to release the reins but he would not be pushed into retirement.

“I just have to judge it myself really. There’s no rush, I’ve got another month before the bones are healed anyway.”

Townley started training in with his father Doody in 1987 before training in his own right from 1995. He has 263 winners and another 230 with his dad.

Most of his horses are spelling now although Harbour Queen placed third at Methven on April 26, just the tonic as he followed the race from his ward.

Townley has also been boosted by the harness racing fraternity.

“I’ve been inundated by offers of help,” he said.

drivesouth-pow-generic-1_0.png

 

 

Advertisement

postanote_header_620_x_80.png

postanote_620_x_25.jpg

Local trusted journalism matters - now more than ever

As the Covid-19 pandemic brings the world into uncharted waters, Star Media journalists and photographers continue to report local stories that matter everyday - yours.

For more than 152 years our journalists have provided Cantabrians with local news that can be trusted. It’s more important now than ever to keep Cantabrians connected.

As our advertising has fallen during the pandemic, support from you our reader is crucial.

You can help us continue to provide local news you can trust simply by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter