11 May 2013

Call for more zip wire regulation after accidental death

The circumstances of Tanya's death and the inquest afterwards were profoundly distressing for Tanya's friends and family, as they would be any sudden death. The long wait between the accident in December 2003 and the inquest in February 2005 was unbearable for all concerned as the wheels of the investigation slowly turned.

Immediately after the inquest I gave a statement to the media saying that Tanya would not want to deter anyone from participating in outdoor activities but the family had been surprised at the lack of regulation of zip wires and that perhaps in light of this accident and others there should be some guidelines on their design. 

The coroner said that "whatever went wrong went wrong up on the (zip wire) platform... that is where she got in trouble. Whether she (Tanya) attempted to get out of the situation and by accident put her foot in the wrong place and then fell off I don't know but I am reasonably satisfied she did step off by accident." I said in that case, measures such as handrails and toe rails on the platform might have saved her life.

Sadly no regulations or recommendations were put in place and today another family and a coroner is calling for better regulation of zip-wires after another long-awaited inquest into a zip-wire death in 2011.

The BBC reported:

More regulations are needed for zip wires says a coroner, after an 11-year-old boy's death in a fall at a theme park was ruled as accidental.

Bailey Sumner, from Blackpool, had been wrongly attached to rope at Greenwood Forest Park near Caernarfon on Easter Sunday in 2011, an inquest jury heard.
Wales Online also reported the tragedy:

Zipwire death of schoolboy Bailey Sumner was an accident inquest decides

Grandfather Philip Lonsdale said he was “absolutely amazed” there was no need for zipwire rides to be licensed or inspected.

The death of a schoolboy who fell to his death from a zip-wire ride was an accident, an inquest jury has decided.
Bailey Sumner was visiting the Greenwood Forest Park near Felinheli, near Bangor, on Easter Sunday two years ago when he fell from the newly installed Swampflyer ride and suffered serious head injuries.
His mother Dawn, who was waiting for the 11 year old at the bottom of the ride, rushed to his side within seconds of the fall. She was with him at Ysbyty Gwynedd, where he later died.
She was too upset to speak after the three-day hearing at Dolgellau today but Bailey’s grandfather Philip Lonsdale said he was “absolutely amazed” there was no need for zipwire rides to be licensed or inspected.
He said:  “I think it very important the Government step in to ensure there are regulations to cover zipwires. It’s been apparent throughout that advice and guidance have not been available.
“The Greenwood Park tried their best to get the advice they needed and they were let down.”
Mr Lonsdale urged the Greenwood Park owners to reopen the zipwire ride again.
“They should do so in light of what we’ve heard today and if they do I’ll be the first to ride it,” he said
North Wales coroner Nicola Jones, sitting at Dolgellau Magistrates Court, said she will be writing to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and other agencies demanding action be taken to prevent tragedies like Bailey’s death.
She said: “Stephen Bristow [owner of Greenwood Forest Park] continually sought guidance but none was available. The lack of guidance played a significant part in how Bailey came to die.”
After the hearing Mr Bristow said: “The safety of our visitors is our top priority and we welcome the coroner’s move to urge the HSE to consider whether specific guidance should be drafted and made publicly available to ensure a tragic accident like this does not happen again.
“The tragic death of Bailey has deeply affected and saddened everyone at Greenwood and our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time.”
But Gwynedd council last night confirmed its investigations into the incident are continuing. An official was present throughout the hearing.
A spokesman said:  “We are continuing to carry out investigations into possible regulatory breaches concerning the tragic incident at Greenwood Forest Park. Our officers have been carefully considering all the possible options before deciding what action is necessary.
“Now that the inquest has come to an end, we will be moving forward to pursue these actions.”
The jury heard Bailey, from Blackpool, may have fallen because he was attached to the zipwire by a false loop in a lanyard.
It has also been suggested Bailey had tampered with a carabiner clip on a lanyard which attached his harness to the zipwire.
But Mr Bristow, recalled to answer questions about this point yesterday, said the clips used at Greenwood Forest Park were “very difficult to open”
The coroner ordered the jury to disregard this evidence during their deliberations.
The jury also heard evidence from health and safety experts yesterday.
David Riley, of the Health and Safety Laboratory, who carry out tests on behalf of the HSE, said he had considered the system used at the park.
Asked by the coroner if “human error was a latent failure” in the system he replied “that is my opinion”.
The jury heard the specialist company which installed the ride also trained senior park staff.
Asked about the training manual, expert witness Paul McCann said: “Its details are sketchy and not tailored to the needs of  the park. I would expect something more specific.”
Barrister Kevin Elliott, for Greenwood Forest Park, asked if the HSE had issued any guidance about the perils of zipwire operation.
Mr McCann said: “I’m not sure but I believe there should be.”
Another expert, Louise Robinson, said she was not aware of any other incident involving false loops leading to injury in her 10 years’ experience as a health and safety inspector

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