Inflatable sculpture deaths: artist guilty
The creator of an inflatable artwork which broke free from its moorings and flipped over, killing two people, was found guilty today of breaching health and safety rules.
Claire Furmedge, 38, and Elizabeth Collings, 68, died when they fell from the giant PVC structure as it left the ground.
A jury at Newcastle Crown Court found Maurice Agis, 77, of Kirton Gardens, Bethnal Green, east London, guilty of one charge of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act.
The judge, Mrs Justice Cox, gave a majority direction to the jury, which retired to continue deliberating on two counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.
The 50-metre by 50-metre inflatable artwork broke free and rose into the sky on a hot afternoon in Chester-le-Street's Riverside Park, County Durham, in July 2006.
Mrs Furmedge, 38, from Chester-le-Street, and Mrs Collings, 68, were trapped inside the artwork when a sudden gust of wind got underneath the structure, raising it from the ground.
The ropes tethering the inflatable sculpture were no longer able to hold it, and it broke free, flipping over and crashing into a CCTV pole, where it deflated.
Another 27 visitors were injured, among them Rosie Wright, then aged three, whose life was saved by a passing anaesthetist and the prompt action of an air ambulance crew who flew her to hospital.
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