A fairground operator has been fined for safety failings after 22 people, many of them children, were trapped when a poorly maintained ride collapsed.
All the passengers on the Surf Rider at Skegness Pleasure Beach had to be rescued by the fire service in the incident on 30 August 2011. Seven passengers were taken to hospital, with three of those being kept in overnight but allowed home the next day.
The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which today (22 Aug) prosecuted Pleasure Beach Amusements (Skegness) Ltd for safety failings at Skegness Magistrates’ Court.
The court heard that the Surf Rider was fully-loaded and in operation when the passenger car leveling mechanism failed, causing the car to rotate on its axis and collide with the platform.
HSE found a gearbox for the mechanism had failed due to a lack of oil. A bearing in the gearbox became so hot that it seized and jammed the leveling mechanism. As a result, several other components failed and led to the passenger car operating at an angle to the main arm instead of remaining horizontal throughout the ride.
As the arm continued to rotate the car tilted and collided with the ride platform, coming to a sudden halt at an angle of around 80 degrees.
Pleasure Beach Amusements (Skegness) Ltd, of Grand Parade, Skegness, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay costs of £8,000.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector David Kivlin said:
“This was a frightening incident for many people that day and it could have been easily prevented. There was just not enough oil in the gearboxes.
“There was specific instruction from the ride manufacturer and the gearbox manufacturer relating to the lubrication of the gearboxes. HSE would expect the company to have checked that gearbox oil levels were correct before installation. As the oil levels were insufficient, there was, therefore, an inevitability about this incident.
“The injuries suffered by those on the ride that day could have been much worse. It was a traumatic experience for everyone on board and some are now unwilling to go on fair rides or in lifts.
“As the ride’s owner and operator, Pleasure Beach Amusements (Skegness) Ltd had a duty to ensure the ride was maintained in good working order. The company significantly failed in that duty.
“Incidents on fairground rides are rare and infrequent if equipment is safe and correctly maintained.”
Student Alice Thorne, 16, of Hinckley, Leicestershire, was trapped on the Surf Rider for more than an hour when it collapsed. She suffered neck, chest and leg injuries and has been affected psychologically by the incident which has left her with a fear of heights and fairground rides.
She said: “When we got on the ride it was going around normally, and then it jolted down. I said: “Is it going to snap?” It then started to tip and fell to the ground.
“People came rushing over. I was at the top of the ride so I had to wait for about an hour for the fire officer to release me.
“I was really shook up and was put in the ambulance and had an ECG, but we decided I didn’t need to go to hospital.
“The next day I woke up in agony and could not move my shoulder and neck. My neck pain lasted a couple of months, and affected my dancing. I’ve also been having nightmares about the incident.
“I no longer go on fairground rides and when it comes to lifts and elevators, I get scared they might drop. I get very anxious in multi-storey car parks, and I’m now very paranoid about anything to do with heights.”