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FATAL FALL AT WARWICK CASTLE ENDS IN MASSIVE FINE

Operator warned of risk which claimed life of visitor to major attraction

Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd has ordered to pay almost £1/2 million in fines and prosecution costs following a 7 day trial over failure to protect visitors to Warwick Castle on 9th December 2007.

Visitor George Townley suffered fatal head injuries when he fell some 4m from the Bear & Clarence Bridge into the dry moat below. He was walking across the bridge when he stumbled and fall from the bridge which is one two routes crossing the moat into and out of the Castle. The parapet walls were 15″ in height. Scaffolding was erected on the bridge following death.

Fall from the bridge was identified as a hazard in a Public Entertainment Licence condition in 1995 and a `Fabric Survey Risk Assessment` in 2003. Merlin failed to pass this information to relevant managers at Warwick Castle, including the health and safety officer. The jury heard that Merlin failed to act on these warnings nor undertake a site specific risk assessment until after the fatal accident.

Proper risk assessments and measures are necessary to protect visitors

Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd had denied two charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act brought by Warwick District Council. The company was fined £350,000 and ordered it to pay £145,000 prosecutions costs.

Rob Chapleo, Divisional Environmental Health Officer said:

“Merlin Attractions Operations Limited were made aware that there was a risk of falling from the bridge on two separate occasions before the fatal accident. Mr Townley’s fatal accident was foreseeable and would not have occurred if Merlin had undertaken a “suitable and sufficient” risk assessment which, in the Council`s view, would have identified the need to provide barriers to the sides of the bridge.

These would have prevented people falling into the moat. I hope that this successful prosecution will draw the attention of the operators of sites open to the public to the need to undertake proper risk assessments and implement the measures necessary to protect visitor safety.”

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