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Teen dies while training for rodeo event

Teen dies while training for rodeo eventA rodeo cowboy competes in a saddle bronc event in Denver, Col. on Jan. 22, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Brennan Linsley

THORSBY, Alta. - Investigators say the death of a 16-year-old boy at a junior rodeo training event southwest of Edmonton appears to have been a freak accident.

Police say they were called to the Thorsby Haymaker Centre on Saturday afternoon after the boy was struck by a horse while practising for the saddle bronc event.

They say members of the public performed CPR on him until police and EMS arrived, but he didn't survive.

RCMP Cpl. Corey Kyle says it appears the boy was bucked off the horse and was kicked after landing, but it's difficult to say for sure.

He says there is cellphone video of the accident but the events happened so quickly that it's hard to make them out in the footage.

The boy's name hasn't been released but police say he was from the area around Turner Valley, Alberta.

"The whole event happened as quick as the snap of your fingers. There were feet and hoofs flying," Kyle said about the cellphone video.

"It looks like as he was getting up to recover, he got kicked."

The training event continued on Sunday.

Skeeter Thurston, who is one of the trainers, said the teen had ridden steers competitively before, and while he was learning the saddle bronc event, he said the boy had some previous experience with it.

The saddle bronc event involves remaining in the saddle on a bucking horse after it is released from a chute.

Thurston said the horse bucked the boy about four times before he was thrown in the air. He landed in front of the horse and it looked like the animal was trying to avoid stepping on him, but couldn't miss him.

"(The horse) ended up clipping him with a foot. And then he got up and ran about five feet and collapsed," Thurston said on Sunday.

An ambulance was called right away. The boy's breathing was erratic at first, and then less frequent.

Thurston said the boy's father was among the people who performed CPR.

He said the boy was wearing a protective vest and a mouth guard.

Thurston, a former rodeo competitor who said he has been teaching rodeo for 20 years, said it's the first death he's ever seen in bronc riding.

Students at his training events range in age from 15 to their early 20s.

"Before they ever get on a horse, we put them through a bucking machine, saddle horses, all kinds of different things to work their way up to getting on that first bucking horse."

"We try to minimize any chance of this kind of thing happening."

"It's just a tragedy."

The remaining students plan to make a commemorative decal in the teen's honour.

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