The 15-year-old daughter of financier Ben Goldsmith died after losing control of her all-terrain vehicle on her family’s farm, an inquest has heard.
Iris Goldsmith had been zig-zagging the off-road vehicle across a rough field in an attempt to “scare” her friend, an inquest has heard.
Neither the teenager or her friend were said to be wearing seatbelts at the time and were flung from the six-seater Polaris Ranger, landing under its roof during an incident in July 2019.
Taunton Coroner’s Court heard on Wednesday Iris was pinned to the ground and couldn’t be freed until members of staff from Cannwood Farm, in North Brewham, Somerset, rushed to help. The vehicle was eventually lifted from her, but after 45 minutes of medical help and CPR, she was pronounced dead.
Later examinations on the vehicle showed it had low front brake pads, worn lower wishbone bushes and under-inflated tyres. It was a combination of a sharp right turn, the vehicle faults and safety equipment not being used that culminated in her death, a collision investigator told the inquest.
In a statement read to the inquest, Mr Goldsmith described his daughter as a “force of nature” and said “nobody could have stopped her doing what she wanted to do”.
He described the tragedy as an “amalgamation of bad luck,” but said she was well used to driving the vehicle from a very young age and had never seen her do so irresponsibly.
Coroner Tony Williams recorded a verdict of accidental death, after hearing the two teenagers were on their way to collect another friend from a neighbouring farm at around 3pm on 8 July 2019 when the crash took place.
No criminal charges were brought in respect of the circumstances of Iris’s death, and the Health and Safety Executive dropped its investigation due to the fact the incident happened during leisure use.
“I think it’s fair to say that the various defects to the Polaris Ranger, if considered in isolation, would not have caused the vehicle to overturn,” the coroner said. “It was Iris’s driving that caused this and the defects contributed to the instability of the vehicle.
“As we know, Iris was probably having fun with her friend when this tragic incident occurred.”
In his statement, Mr Goldsmith said he’d taught Iris to drive quad bikes on private land, including at Cannwood Farm, from the age of eight years under his supervision, and then independently from the age of 13 or 14.
The family’s house manager had previously raised concerns about Iris being reckless on horses and quad bikes, Mr Goldsmith added, but said he didn’t recall ever seeing Iris drive irresponsibly in the Mule – the family’s nickname for the vehicle, which he described as an “integral part of family life on the farm”.
He labelled the sequence of events leading to her death “unbelievably unfair”.
“The ground was very hard as we’ve just come out of a two-month dry spell, which may have made the wheels skid, which was also bad luck,” he said. “Also, Iris may have made the decision to get out of the vehicle as it rolled, which may have contributed to her death. Maybe if she had just held on inside, she wouldn’t have been killed.
“The way the vehicle fell on her was unlucky, and there was no one else around who could help. All of these things as one-offs are unlucky but added together, it is just unbelievably unfair.
“It is difficult for me to apportion blame to anyone but Iris for what happened. There are certain things which have contributed, but Iris was a force of nature and I don’t think anyone could have stopped her from doing anything that she wanted to do.”
Earlier this week, Mr Goldsmith, who is a keen environmentalist, said on Twitter that he was “working hard on an ‘Iris Project’” in honour his daughter.
“The aim will be to identify and lift up teenage environmental champions from around the world, and especially in marginalised and indigenous communities. A kind of green Nobel Prize for the young. Will report soon.”
Additional reporting by SWNS
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