Collapsed fair ride 'riddled with faults'

A 30-YEAR-OLD fairground ride that collapsed during Suffolk's annual Big Night Out at Long Melford injuring eight people was “riddled” with faults and defects, a court has heard.

Jane Hunt

A 30-YEAR-OLD fairground ride that collapsed during Suffolk's annual Big Night Out at Long Melford injuring eight people was “riddled” with faults and defects, a court has heard.

Several cars on the “Hellraiser” ride came loose and crashed into each other after a mechanical failure, leaving two people trapped in their cars.

Several other passengers were injured, including three teenagers and a 24-year-old woman who was taken to hospital with four broken ribs and damage to her spine, Ipswich Crown Court was told.

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Before the court were ride owner Walter Shufflebottom, 62, of John's Way, South Ockendon, Essex, independent fairground examiner Frederick Meakin, 51, of Stretton, Leicestershire and his company Fairground Inspection Services.

Sentencing Judge David Goodin described the ride as being “riddled” with 50 faults and defects in repairs and maintenance and said it was purely by “a turn of fate” that no-one was killed or permanently injured.

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He said: “It was a very serious accident and one which should have never occurred.

“The ride was riddled with defects arising from its age and from inadequate or botched running of the repairs.

“Four months before the accident Mr Meakin declared the 30-year-old ride operational. Quite how he did remains something of a mystery.”

Shufflebottom admitted failing to maintain the ride in good order and was fined �2,000.

Meakin admitted failing to carry out an adequate examination of the ride and was fined �2,000 with �1,000 costs while his company admitted failing to properly examine the ride and was fined �8,000 with �1,000 costs.

After the hearing Eddie Scoggins of the Health and Safety executive said the accident could have resulted in “multiple” fatalities.

He said when things went so badly wrong on a fairground ride it was “a matter of pure luck” that more people weren't seriously injured or killed.

Mr Scoggins added the �60,000 cost of the 15 month investigation into the accident was worthwhile as the case had been about public safety.

The court heard that the accident happened at about 8.45pm on November 2 2007 during the popular annual Big Night Out fireworks extravaganza at Long Melford. At the time of the collapse ten members of the public were on the ride which could accommodate a maximum of 36 passengers.

The ride had been operating for about a minute and was nearing full speed when it collapsed causing passenger carriages to “concertina” into each other, said Mark Watson, prosecuting.

Ian Cassie for Shufflebottom said his client did not have any engineering qualifications and felt he could legitimately place some reliance on the annual safety inspections carried out on the ride.

Angus Withington for Meakin said his client, like Shufflebottom, had no previous convictions and prided himself on his reputation.

He said one aspect of the safety inspection had not been properly completed by a sub contractor and Meakin accepted he should have noticed this hadn't been done.

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