Spirit of Tasmania owners sued over the deaths of 16 polo ponies amid claim they died on board

The Spirit of Tasmania operator TT-Line is being sued for negligence over the deaths of prized polo ponies that crossed Bass Strait in January.

Former captain of the Australian polo team and national polo identity Andrew Williams lodged the writ in the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday against TT-Line Company and logistics company QUBE Holdings Limited.

The ponies died on a horse float that had been driven by Mr Williams and had crossed Bass Strait after competing at Tasmania’s premier polo event at Barnbougle, in the state’s north-east.

The civil claim, seen by the ABC, alleges 13 ponies died between boarding the ferry at Devonport for the 7:30pm departure to Melbourne and about 2:00am.

Mr Williams alleges TT-Line and QUBE Holdings caused the death of the ponies by failing to provide a safe environment, adequate checks and airflow for the animals while on the ship.

Mr Williams, his partner Rebecca Ann Williams, Twynam Agricultural Group and Willo Polo pony mangers are seeking $639,000 for loss of the horses and $100,000 for loss of profits and wages.

The writ claims TT-Line was negligent as they failed in their duty of care over the horses whilst aboard the Spirit of Tasmania.

It states that there was an agreement between Mr Williams and TT-Line that while the animals were on the ferry “TT-Line would be responsible for the wellbeing of the horses”.

On the Bass Strait crossings, the writ states:

“TT-Line would provide an environment suitable for the safe passage of the Horses in the horse floats;

“TT-Line would ensure air ventilation integrity for the Horses.”

‘Negligence’ to blame for horse deaths, writ says

The writ states that two floats containing 33 horses were driven and parked on the ferry under direction of TT-Line and QUBE staff.

It claims Mr Williams and the driver of the other float were directed to leave their vehicles, go up to their cabins and to not return to the vehicles until the ferry had docked at its destination.

“The horses’ deaths were caused (or contributed to) by the defendants’ negligence'”, the writ states, arguing TT-Line and QUBE:

  • failed to provide a safe environment for the horses;
  • failed to have an adequate inspection routine for the horses;
  • failed to have adequate monitoring systems for the animals;
  • failed to provide adequate air ventilation;
  • and failed to adequately measure the horses’ on-board air quality.

The writ states the bloodline of the horses was five generations in the making.

TT-Line said it would not comment until the investigation was finished.

QUBE have been contacted for comment.

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