One of the things people will be looking forward to after we can all move around freely again after 21 June (if that stays as it is) is having family days out again. 

These often take the form of a visit to a theme park or other similar attractions with their many rides and roller coasters to scream excitedly on as they loop loops and seem to go ever faster and higher.  I well remember as a child getting off the ride at the end with a racing heart and weak legs with the sheer relief of having lived through it.

Sadly sometimes people don’t live through them, or are seriously injured.  Considering the amount of rides there are, their mechanical complexity and the vast number of people who go on them during the course of a season,  they are remarkably safe and there are relatively few accidents. It is the fact that the few that there are can be so catastrophic that makes them headline news when they do occur

The BBC report this week that Drayton Manor Park Ltd have been fined £1 million pounds following the death of Evha Jannath, aged 11 in 2017 while on the ”Splash Canyon” rapids ride at Drayton Manor during a school trip.

Evha fell from a boat during the ride when it hit a barrier and was “propelled” into the water.  Evha could not swim. The ride was closed and has not re-opened.

In 2019, an inquest found that her death was accidental.

Nevertheless, Drayton Manor Park Ltd  admitted a breach under Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act, after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) brought the prosecution. When you read that the Court was told this week at the hearing that the park had a history of failings on the same ride before Evha’s death and that the accident had happened, according to HSE’s barrister James Puzey

   “in the context of the systemic failures of safety on this ride…the control measures they had were failing every day”

the admission is hardly surprising.  There were however, no previous convictions.

It seems however, that although as the judge Mr Justice Spencer said:

“It is important that lessons are learned and the seriousness of the defendant company’s failing in this case is marked by an appropriate punishment…..nor can Evha’s family and the public ..be led to think that the death of a child can properly be met by only a nominal financial penalty”

The fine will not be paid as the company has gone into administration.

We are not suggesting that theme parks and fairgrounds should be avoided. Far from it. They are great fun and not only for children- give a (supposed) grown-up half a chance and they’re on Nemesis and Oblivion like greased lightning.

It came to light that Evha was standing up on the ride and was unsupervised.  It must be entirely foreseeable that over- excited 11 year olds WILL stand up and jump up and down even when they shouldn’t and that an accident may as a result ensue.

Our suggestion is that in designing rides, thought is given as to how children actually do behave in real life and that the design should make it almost impossible for them to put themselves in danger. Don’t always assume that you can rely on supervision. Children have the consistency of eels when it comes to slipping away from adult eyes!

We KNOW that risk cannot and never will be eliminated 100%.  It’s the fear and the thought of risk that is a huge part of any such attraction, but that fear has to be tempered with the knowledge that actually, you are quite safe, though your shrieks might suggest not!

Just err on the side or caution in design- spend the money on safety features rather than fines.  If you can imagine a child doing something, then one probably will.  Try and build something in to prevent it. Then, once you have your ride, make sure it is checked and maintained adequately- more than adequately if lives depend on it.

But on the whole, let’s look forward to screaming our way through summer as we hang upside down yet again- can we remember how to do that?

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