Last week, William and Shelby Thurston were given a three-year prison sentence for manslaughter following the death of seven-year-old girl Summer Grant, after the bouncy castle they operated blew away.
Circumstances surrounding the accident
Summer and her family were attending the local funfair where the Thurstons were running several inflatable rides. Due to bad weather, the decision was made to deflate one of their rides, but to keep the bouncy castle in operation. Strong winds lifted the inflatable, sending it 300 metres from its moorings while Summer was trapped inside. Tragically, she died as a result of her injuries.
Health & Safety breach
The couple were charged and convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence and a failure to discharge their duty under section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, (1974 Act).
In relation to the criminal charge of gross negligence, the breach of their duty of care towards Summer was so serious that the Court regarded it as criminal.
The couple were also found to have breached their duties under section 3(2) of the 1974 act. This section requires those who are self-employed to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that others, such as Summer, are not exposed to risks to their health and safety. The couple failed to monitor the wind speed or adequately anchor the bouncy castle. Had they done so, this accident could have been avoided. Mr Justice Garnham described the couple's decision to leave the inflatable in use as a "dreadful act of misjudgement".
Outcome at the trial
The couple were sentenced to three years in prison for negligent manslaughter, and a further 12 months imprisonment for failing to ensure the safety of Summer Grant under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act.
Unfortunately, it remains commonplace in the fairground industry that inflatables and rides are operated without adequate Health and Safety measures. This case highlights the tragic consequences of non-compliance with Health and Safety Regulations and the legal steps that will be taken when a breach is identified.
When considering hiring a bouncy castle or other fairground ride, it is essential that the equipment is hired from a reputable company and, wherever possible, set up, operated and supervised by the hire company's own staff. The company should also provide evidence of Public Liability insurance in the event that an accident does happen. If you choose to do this yourself, you will have to meet all those obligations and take on the risks should something ultimately go wrong.
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