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In May 2017, 11-year-old Evha Jannath was killed following an accident on the Splash Canyon water ride at Drayton Manor Park. On 18 March 2021, the theme park was fined £1 million after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
The sentencing judge, Mr Justice Spencer concluded: “This was an utterly tragic waste of a young life.”
The fine will not be paid because the company operating Drayton Manor has gone into administration and the theme park has been sold.
How was the accident caused?
On the day of the accident, Evha Jannath and four friends from Jameah Girls Academy in Leicester boarded one of the boats on the Splash Canyon river rapids. Evha got to her feet mid-way through the ride and fell in the water. It took 18 minutes for park staff to reach the little girl and by then it was too late to save her.
Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 provides that every employer must “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.”
Following its investigation, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found there was inadequate or poorly visible signage telling riders to remain seated. Furthermore, there was a lack of staff training, understaffing, and failure to have an emergency plan for the ride.
The Court heard that there had been 14 previous instances of people falling into the water whilst on the ride, including a 10-year-old boy who was rescued by members of the public as staff had not noticed the incident.
There was also a failure by staff to tell passengers on the ride to stay seated. Evidence showed that people standing up on the ride was a “relatively frequent” occurrence and that on “9% to 16%” of journeys, there was passenger “misbehaviour.” On the day Evha died, 70 people had stood up in the boats. Furthermore, the loudspeaker system designed to control passenger behaviour was never used to order those 70 people to sit down.
No staff members saw Evha fall into the water. Investigators discovered that CCTV only covered half the course and was static. Also, the CCTV was not always monitored as the ride’s operator had to split their time between watching the footage and helping passengers board the boats.
Just under a month before the fatality staff members raised concerns to park management over the lack of signage, the CCTV, and the use of sprinklers that sprayed passengers with water, thereby encouraging them to stand up. Mr Justice Spencer commented:
“Nothing had been done in the short time between this meeting and the fatal accident to address these matters. But there was a clear appreciation of several ongoing issues concerning safety on the Splash Canyon ride.”
Following the hearing, HSE Principal Inspector Lyn Spooner said:
“As a result of Drayton Manor’s failings 11-year-old Evha Jannath, died at the end of what should have been a fun day out.
“The risks from ejection from the raft had been evident to Drayton Manor for some time, yet they still failed to take the action that could have prevented Evha’s death.
“This tragic event should never have happened and my thoughts and the thoughts of HSE remain with Evha’s family and friends.”
Evidence showed a litany of failures that resulted in Evha Jannath’s death. This case highlights the importance of updating risk assessments when incidents occur. For example, analysis showed that the Splash Canon ride was dangerous as a high percentage of riders stood up in the boats. An undertaking of a comprehensive risk assessment, followed by procedural changes to mitigate the risks identified; for example, investing in a broader CCTV system that had a dedicated staff member to monitor it and increasing staff training, would likely have prevented Evha’s death.
One of the best ways to ensure your business has adequate risk assessments in place and is meeting its statutory duty under section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 is to work with an experienced health and safety lawyer. They can audit your health and safety policies and procedures and, should the HSE launch an investigation into your business, advise and represent you to ensure your best interests are protected.Tanveer Qureshi specialises in white-collar crime and regulatory investigations and prosecutions. If you require legal representation, please contact Tanveer directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or via his chambers, 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square. for more about Tanveer or to subscribe to his newsletters, please go to www.tqlegal.co.uk