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Fines follow death at North Yorkshire theme park

[Monday 11 December 2006]

FINES totalling more than £150, 000 have followed a series of prosecutions resulting from the death of a young woman at a North Yorkshire theme park.

...constant care is required from all those involved to ensure that high safety standards are achieved and members of the public are only exposed to the illusion of danger

Paul Robinson - Health and Safety Executive

Lightwater Valley Attractions Ltd was fined £35,000 plus costs of £40,000 for breaching health and safety legislation in a hearing at Leeds Crown Court before Mr Justice Simon.

Maintenance electrician Eric Butters was fined £2,500 plus costs of £500. The French manufacturer of the ride, Societe Reverchon Industries, was found guilty in their absence after a four-day trial. The company, which is in liquidation, was fined a total of £120,000 plus £55,000 costs.

The cases were brought after a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into an incident on 20 June 2001 at Lightwater Valley theme park near Ripon. 20 year old student Gemma Savage died and three other riders were injured after two cars collided on the 'Treetop Twister' roller coaster.

The 'Treetop Twister' ride at Lightwater Valley is a roller coaster where cars are pulled up to a height and then run back down on an undulating and twisting track under gravity. When a car failed to clear a 'hill', it was held near the top and the ride automatically stopped the following cars. Eric Butters used the maintenance hand controls to return cars to the station but his actions, combined with the effect of a ride wiring fault, resulted in the two cars colliding.

Lightwater Valley Attractions Ltd was charged with breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Mr Butters was charged under Section 7(a) of the Act, and charges against the ride's French manufacturer, Societe Reverchon Industries, France, were under Sections 6 (1A)(a) and 6(1A)(c) of the Act.

Lightwater Valley Attractions Ltd and Mr Eric Butters pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

After the hearing, HSE's investigating Inspector Paul Robinson said: "Gemma Savage tragically died after what should have been a fun day out for her.

"The guilty pleas and verdicts and the Judge's comments and fines imposed today on the ride supplier, operator and worker reflect the high safety standards expected by the law, public and HSE from all those involved in supplying and operating fairground and theme park rides.

"The amusement industry safety record is good but constant care is required from all those involved to ensure that high safety standards are achieved and members of the public are only exposed to the illusion of danger."

Below are the applicable sections of the Health and Safety at Work Act:

  • Section 3(1) of the HSW Act states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."

  • Section 7(a) of the HSW Act states: "It shall be the duty of every employee while at work to take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work."

  • Section 6(1A)(a) of the HSW Act states: "It shall be the duty of any person who designs, manufactures, imports or supplies any item of fairground equipment to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the article is so designed and constructed that it will be safe and without risks to health at all times when it is being used for or in connection with the entertainment of members of the public."

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