Father’s Day pain for jockey’s grieving family
Chris Tyndall made a heartbreaking Father's Day journey to Darwin yesterday, to bring home the body of his beloved daughter, Melanie.
The 32-year-old jockey and policewoman died on Saturday after she fell from her mount during a race and was trampled at the Fannie Bay Racecourse.
Mr Tyndall, 63, of Peterborough, was visiting his older daughter, Jodie, in Adelaide on Saturday ahead of Father's Day when they received the devastating news in a phone call.
The popular jockey, known to friends and family as Mel, had been combining her passion for horses with a career in the Northern Territory Police Force.
Jodie Tyndall, 33, paid tribute to her sister, who was a constable.
"To my beautiful sister, I love you. I miss you heaps, love from your sister Jodie," she told The Advertiser.
"She always had a smile on her face when she's riding."
Ms Tyndall said the family was still in shock. She said her father received a call initially that Melanie was conscious after the fall but was later told she died in hospital.
"I never thought it would happen," Ms Tyndall said.
She said Melanie, a Murray Bridge High School graduate, was "fun-loving", had a big group of friends wherever she went and was "popular".
Melanie worked with a trainer during her teenage years in Murray Bridge before moving to Gawler.
"She was riding horses since she was young; she was a big lover of horses," Ms Tyndall said.
"Some mornings she would take me with her and see her riding.
"I was always worried every time she was riding horses, and when she told me she applied to be a police officer - but I was quite happy for her."
Mr Tyndall has closely followed his daughter's career and celebrated her achievements.
Before moving to Darwin, Melanie worked with Gawler trainer Gary Searle, who said she was "like a second daughter to us".
"Mel was here for about two years and with opportunities she rode her first city winner for us before moving to Darwin," he said.
"To her credit, she was able to ride 150 winners and getting into the police force was an amazing achievement.
"Punters are quick to talk through their pockets when a jockey rides a bad race, but these are the times that it hits home just how dangerous the sport is.''
More than two years ago, Melanie, who moved to Darwin in October 2013, told how she was considering giving up race riding because of weight battles and to become a full-time police officer.
But the jockey "made a comeback" after joining the NT police force, Thoroughbred Racing Northern Territory chief executive Andrew O'Toole said.
"She was remarkable balancing both jobs," he told Sky Thoroughbred Racing.
"It's really hard to take when we lose one of our own."
He said Melanie's fall at first seemed innocuous.
"It seemed Melanie clipped heels and was attended to immediately," Mr O'Toole said.
"She was conscious and we were hopeful she would be OK. But she got to Royal Darwin Hospital and unfortunately passed away."
Melanie, who joined the NT Police Force two years ago, is the second SA jockey to die in a Darwin race fall.
Simone Montgomerie was killed after falling on Darwin Cup Day in 2013.
The racing industry is also grieving the loss of apprentice jockey Mikaela Claridge, who was killed following a track work fall at Cranbourne, in Victoria, less than 48 hours earlier.
- with Lincoln Moore