Day At The Track

Horse trainer's mother fatally struck by vehicle

10:35 PM 15 Dec 2014 NZDT
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Betty McArthur Mick Darling said he had mind-boggling support from the community after the tragedy
Betty McArthur, right, with her granddaughter Tara on her wedding day
Photo: Supplied
Mick Darling said he had mind-boggling support from the community after the tragedy
Greg Mayfield photo

A horse trainer has told how he was at a harness-racing meeting on Friday night when his mother was fatally struck by a hit-run driver only a short distance away.

Earlier, Betty McArthur, 84, had watched her son Mick Darling’s horses in two races on the program at Phoenix Park in Port Pirie.

She was walking back to her car parked in its usual spot outside a friend’s house, in Grey Terrace, when she was hit by the vehicle about 9.30pm.

This is only about 100 metres from the entrance to the trotting park – and Mr Darling was still at the track when he got the news that someone had been hit.

“It was straight after race five,” a shocked Mr Darling told The Recorder Editor Greg Mayfield on Saturday afternoon at his home at Bungama on the outskirts of Port Pirie.

He spoke just after police released the news that a suspected offender was being interviewed over the hit-run.

Mr Darling said he had ”mind-boggling” support from the community after the tragedy. “You don’t know how many friends you have got,” he said.

He said it would be difficult on Christmas Day with an empty seat being there for Mrs McArthur. “All Christmases are special,” he said.

Mrs McArthur is a former president with the Women’s and Children’s Hospital auxiliary and used to make dinners for drivers and trainers at the trotting track until a few years ago.

She was a regular supplier of delicious nut rolls to a local delicatessen.

Mr Darling agreed his mother was proud of him and always watched his horses go round the track.

“I drove one horse in one race and another driver drove one of my other horses in the other race. They were the fourth and sixth races on the program and she watched them both,” he said.

Mr Darling is president of the Port Pirie Harness Racing Club and president of the South Australian Country Harness Racing Clubs.

“Mum and Dad had horses when we were kids. I originally raced her horses,” he said.

“We went to school at Snowtown and Lochiel and shifted to Port Pirie for the last year of high school.

“Mum didn’t work – looking after six kids was a big enough job.”

It is not the first time that tragedy has truck the family.

Mr Darling’s brother Robin died 17 years ago from an asthma attack.

Later, Mr Darling’s mother remarried and became Mrs McArthur.

“When she remarried there were 13 of us,” he said.

“It was a big Christmas and a big day at tea-time.

“Everyone knows her. She worked so hard for the trotting club.

“She had been president of the Women’s and Children’s Hospital auxiliary for eight or nine years.

“She was inspired to do this by her two disabled grandchildren. One of them can’t speak, but recently had a long “conversation” on the phone with Mum’ and was laughing and smiling.

“Because my wife and I are shifting to Moonta, Christmas celebrations were going to be at Moonta.

“I asked my mother when she wanted to be picked up to travel to Moonta and she said she was going to drive down - at the age of 84 - but we would have driven her anyway.”

He said his mother always attended the trotting meetings.

“She was actually a life member of the harness racing club,” he said.

“I suppose that indicates how much work she did for the club.

“She always made nut roll for the delicatessen – one of her loves was cooking.

“She was proud of all of us.”

A 40-year-old Port Pirie man was charged with causing death by dangerous driving, failing to stop and render assistance at a collision, and leaving the scene of a collision. 

He will be granted bail to appear in court at a later date.

by Greg Mayfield

Reprinted with permission of the


Major Crash investigators continue to examine the circumstances surrounding the collision, and ask anyone that may have seen a dark-coloured Ford station wagon in the area to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or online at


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