Festival fairground ride creators’ failure ‘could have cost teen his life’

Sonisphere festival
Sonisphere festival

Fairground ride creators have been fined after their breach of health and safety regulations almost caused the death of a Hemel Hempstead teen.

The boy was enjoying the Orbitor Extreme ride at Stevenage’s Sonisphere music festival in 2009, when a catalogue of errors saw him thrown from his harness and propelled through a steel fence panel.

The teenager suffered life-threatening injuries including a torn aorta, broken ribs and shoulder, as well as a shattered ankle.

He had to be treated by emergency services and was in hospital for a week – even spending his 15th birthday there. He later had to have his ankle pinned.

The brand new ride was only on its third outing after being handed over from the manufacturer to its new owner. The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive, which found a number of serious defects which had not been picked up at either the design, testing or sign-off stages.

Failures included not making an adequate analysis that the restraint system was of suitable dimensions to hold typical riders, and not carrying out test processes adequately.

Health and Safety Executive inspector Stephen Manley said:“Fairground machinery is designed to provide people attending fairs with an exciting, fun time without exposing them to serious danger.

“There are defined procedures to follow to make sure rides are safe when they are designed, built and used. These must be respected at all times, as they are by the majority of operators in the industry.

“In this instance, not one of the parties involved properly fulfilled their duties, and the outcome was a very serious but entirely preventable incident, which could easily have cost a young teenager his life.

“Luckily, no one died this time, but this incident should serve as a lesson to fairground owners, ride manufacturers and examiners that cutting corners is unacceptable and will lead to putting lives at risk.”

The ride manufacturer Perrin Stevens and examiners Dr Martyn Lacey and Mr Frederick Meakin were all prosecuted after pleading guilty to the safety breaches at Cambridge Crown Court.

Stevens, of Windsor, Berks, was fined £3,000 the same amount in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 6 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, while his company Perrin Stevens Ltd was fined a further £2,000 and £3,000 costs.

Lacey, from Nottingham, and Meakin, of Rutland, were each fined £8,000 and both ordered to pay costs of £10,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

This year’s Sonisphere took place at Knebworth Park this weekend.