Payout bid over fatal tree tragedy
A GRIEVING mother and three injured youngsters from Essex are suing the National Trust – three years after a falling branch at one of its East Anglian estates killed an 11-year-old boy.
Daniel Mullinger died on June 26, 2007, at Felbrigg Hall, near Cromer, Norfolk.
The schoolboy took the full force of the falling 21.7-metre branch which also injured fellow Heathland Primary School pupils Harry Bowen, Katie Farthing and Max Farely.
Now teenagers, they and Daniel’s mother, Wendy Mullinger, all from West Bergholt, near Colchester, have launched legal action to sue the National Trust for a total expected to be more than �300,000.
In a High Court writ, the claimants say the accident was caused by the National Trust’s “negligence and/or breach of the common duty of care.”
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The mother and youngsters, who were aged 10 and 11 at the time of the incident, say the trust failed to inspect and maintain the 160-year-old beech in the period leading up to the accident.
The trust, they claim, failed to “appreciate the significance of and risks posed by the defects apparent on a visual inspection of the tree.” The tree had a history of branch-shedding and a weakness in the branch which fell which would have been visible from the ground, they say.
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Mrs Mullinger’s claim is for bereavement and funeral expenses following the loss of her son, who was described by teachers as a model pupil. The three youngsters hope to win compensation for the “pain, suffering and shock” they experienced.
Harry Bowen suffered life-threatening injuries as well as a psychological reaction as a result of the accident and was treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London.
The 13-year-old, who is still in pain and will have to undergo major surgery on his hips in the future, did not return to school full-time until September 2008 and at that time was reliant on a wheelchair or two sticks to get around.
Max Farely, the youngest victim, and Katie Farthing, now 13, say they both suffered nightmares and flashbacks following the accident as well as broken bones and cuts when the branch fell.
Last night, Peter Griffiths, regional director for National Trust in the East of England, said: “None of us in the National Trust can imagine what a challenge the last three years have been for Daniel Mullinger’s family and the families of the other children injured in this tragic accident in 2007.
“After what the coroner described as a comprehensive investigation, North Norfolk District Council stated that, in their view, Daniel’s death was an accident that was not forseeable. The coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death.
“It would be inappropriate to comment further on this civil case at such a preliminary stage.”
The children had been part of a group of 10, supervised by a teacher, visiting Felbrigg Hall on the day of the tragedy. They were taking part in an orienteering exercise in the estate’s Great Wood.
When it began to rain the group sheltered under the tree and, at about 3.15pm, the branch fell, killing Daniel instantly.
In June 2008, the inquest at which a verdict of accidental death was returned was told by coroner William Armstrong that the school trip had been well-organised and carefully-planned.