Woman in Saudi pool accident wins £1.6m

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A woman who was paralysed when she was pushed into a swimming pool during an illegal drinks party in Saudi Arabia has received a £1.68m payout from BAE Systems.

BAE, formerly British Aerospace, agreed the payment yesterday to Cherry Frame, 46, after a five-year legal battle. The defence company owned the housing compound in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, where Mrs Frame was pushed into a swimming pool as a prank by a friend who was another BAE employee.

Mrs Frame, who was living in the expatriate compound with her husband, Peter, 59, struck her head on the bottom of the pool and broke her neck during the Polynesian-themed fancy dress party in 1996.

Lawyers for BAE admitted at a High Court hearing last year that the company was 55 per cent liable for the accident after previously denying any responsibility.

Mrs Frame said: "For five long years I have known that I was not responsible for my injuries. I have had to tolerate BAE putting their full support behind a man who, had he kept his hands to himself, would not have put me in a wheelchair for life. I hope BAE have learnt a lesson, even though I am suffering the consequences."

Mrs Frame, a former Army swimming champion from Newbridge-on-Wye, Powys,had claimed BAE was negligent by not ensuring adequate safety at the pool after it cut back on management of the compound.

Solicitors for the couple also claimed that despite the strict ban on alcohol in Saudi Arabia, senior BAE staff knew of and condoned the practice among expatriate staff, an allegation the company denied.

During previous court hearings evidence emerged that a culture of "horseplay" fuelled by illegal alcohol had been a feature of social events in the BAE Star compound where the Frames lived. Despite admitting that she had consumed alcohol, Mrs Frame said she was not drunk and had not contributed to her injuries.

A BAE spokesman said: "It was a terribly sad incident and we have accepted an apportionment of blame. We have accepted that the management of the pool was not as tight as it could have been."

Mrs Frame now requires 24-hour care from a team of carers and her husband, who was working as chief pilot in the VIP squadron of the Royal Saudi Air Force. She is currently recovering from cancer. Her solicitor, Roger Inman,said: "When a British employer takes its people out of the country it still has to make sure they are safe and to compensate them when proper protection is not provided."