Outdoor centre fined over death of girl, 11: Emergency system 'lamentable' after accident in night hike

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The Independent Online
THE OWNER of a children's adventure holiday centre and his company were each fined pounds 15,000 yesterday following the death of an 11-year-old girl on a school holiday.

Ludlow magistrates were told that Hayley Hadfield, a pupil at St Luke's Roman Catholic primary school, in Salford, Manchester, suffered fatal head injuries when she fell into a tree while scrambling down a steep bank during a night hike supervised by an unqualified instructor.

The court was told that the company's emergency procedures 'were nothing less than lamentable' and it took one and a quarter hours before an ambulance was called.

Vaughan Phillips, managing director of Globebrow Ltd, which runs the Manor Adventure Centre, at Craven Arms, Shropshire, admitted failing to ensure safety under the Health and Safety at Work Act. He and the firm were also ordered to pay pounds 15,000 costs.

John Maxwell, for the prosecution, said the accident happened when an instructor, Christopher Taylor, 23, a chemistry graduate who been in the job for a month and had no qualifications to lead adventure groups, took a party from the school on a 'foolish' short cut down a 55 degree slope.

Mr Maxwell said that after the girl was hurt it was left to two 11- year-old boys to administer first aid. 'They saw Hayley was unconscious, removed sticks from her mouth and turned her on her side.

'The emergency procedures of the company were nothing less than lamentable,' he said.

One instructor ran back to the centre while another went to a nearby house to phone.

Mr Phillips, 32, was at the centre but took no part in the rescue because he did not want to undermine his staff. 'Although it was known she was very seriously injured no attempt was made to get outside expert help,' Mr Maxwell said.

Instead, a senior instructor, Stephen Beaumont, drove to the scene in the firm's mini bus, which was known to have a defective starter motor. He had no stretcher, one first-aid kit and no torches. The bus stalled on a track and then became stuck in deep ruts, it was said.

Mr Beaumont carried Hayley 219yds (200m) to the bus, the court was told. She was in such pain she screamed every time she was touched. She was taken back to the centre and only then was a doctor called and he ordered the ambulance. Hayley arrived at the Royal Shrewsbury hospital three hours and 14 minutes after the accident. She died three days later.

Mr Maxwell said Hayley's injuries were so serious she would have died anyway but the company failures could have meant the difference between life and death.

Jonathan Salmon, for the defence, said that the company had not known Mr Taylor would take such a ridiculous deviation. 'It is not disputed that decision was stupid and foolish,' he said.

The company regretted Hayley's death and new equipment and extra training was now provided.

The stipendary magistrate, Harry Hatchard, said the company had heavy obligations under the Act. He told Mr Phillips: 'In my view you have been guilty of the most callous and reckless disregard of your responsibilities . . . Quite despicably you took no action to deal with the problem yourself when you were told about it.

'I'm not allowed to impose imprisonment - if I was I would find it hard to avoid.'

Hayley's father, Peter Hadfield, called on the Government to regulate adventure holidays. 'Anybody with the money can open these places without any safety measures and we don't want this to happen to any other child,' he said.